Out-of-control health system

We write here often about how we believe the health care system in the United States is completely out of control — and needs to be dramatically changed.

Last year, we wrote about the cost of a generic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for arthritis. From that editorial:

“A refill of that drug cost us a co-pay of $11 for a 90-day supply. But there was something on our receipt we had never seen before, a notation that read “Cash Price 717.49.

“Now, our pill is not a brand label, it is a generic. Nor is it a new formulation — it has been available for (well) over a decade. Yet our receipt seemed to indicate that had we not had insurance the cost of our medication for three months would have been over $700.

“As a test, we looked up the same NSAID on a Canadian pharmacy on the internet. The price for 100 pills of the same 200 MG dosage was $79 — one-tenth of the cost here.”

Two recent events have reinforced our conclusion that U.S. health care spending is out of control. We were recently prescribed a brand-name drug that, according to a commercial, “may help lower your A1C.” We paid $65 for our co-pay for a 90-day supply — we have no idea what price our insurance company has negotiated with the pharmacy.

But that little tag — “Cash Price” — read “1,896.26.” Each one of those pills that are about one-fourth the size of a fingernail costs more than $20.

An even worse example, though, was a hospital bill a relative received last month for a laparoscopic operation that involved a one-day hospital stay. The insurance paid $7,283.52, the patient owed $1,586.48, Now, that $8,800 bill is ridiculous enough — but the original charge (which, we guess, goes to uninsured patients) was $31,378.45. For one operation and one day’s stay at the hospital!

A column on the bill marked “Payor Allowed Amount” read –22,508.45. So the insurance company had negotiated a huge discount. Pity the poor person who can’t afford insurance.

And pity the poor American nation for its horrendously flawed, impossibly complex and incredibly expensive health care system.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.