Out-of-control health care

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.

We wrote a couple of years ago 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 almost two decades. 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 other events have reinforced our conclusion that U.S. health care spending is out of control. We were 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 “1896.26.” Each one of those pills that are about one-fourth the size of a fingernail costs over $20.

An even worse example, though, was a hospital bill a relative received for a laparascopic 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 22508.45. 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.