Hospital charges are big problem in health care

Aug. 13, 2013 at 3:13 a.m.

Editor, the Advocate:

I recently had a medical procedure for a heart arrhythmia called A-Flutter. The entire procedure took one day with an overnight stay.

The doctor billed $2,000 for his work and received $1,700 from Medicare and my supplemental insurance. This seems like a completely fair price when I consider the years of study invested in his skill and the results of his work. His fee is more than reasonable.

The hospital presented an itemized bill totaling $88,307.50. I tried to understand the included items. However, the descriptions are in medical terms that I do not understand. Therefore, I cannot intelligently verify the charges. This is one problem with our health care system. The recipients of health care cannot understand the charges for service and thus cannot audit the system.

Medicare and my supplemental insurance policy negotiated the $88,307.50 charge down to $11,984.29. This is reduction of more than 86 percent. This raises another issue with the system. Why do hospitals bill such large fees when they fully understand that they have contracts with Medicare and private insurers that call for significantly lower charges? Patients with no insurance are the only ones who will be stuck with the larger fee.

Realizing that Medicare and private insurance companies reduce hospital charges by such a great extent, you have to wonder why we hate insurance companies. The hospital charges make care expensive - not the fee reduction negotiated by Medicare or insurance companies.

My experience in Houston is not unique. Here in Victoria, a local hospital bills $918 for a blood test. Medicare and my private insurance negotiated the fee down to $13.95. This is a reduction of more than 98 percent. Why bill more than $900 for a $14 blood test?

W. E. White, Victoria



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