The High Cost of Health Care

Do You Know What You Pay For Your Care

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Victoria Veltri, Connecticut Healthcare Advocate
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Dan Haar, Business Editor, The Hartford Courant
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Christopher Dadlez, CEO and President, St. Franciscare
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The High Cost of Health Care
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The High Cost of Health Care

When we need to go to the hospital, we usually don’t care what it costs to make us better. We just want to get better.

And when you think about it, you shouldn't have to worry about how much it costs when you’re sick or hurt.

But in America, where we’re likely to spend $2.8 trillion dollars on health care this year, the care we receive doesn’t cost the same for everyone.

If you come to the hospital as a Medicare patient, there’s one set of costs, with private insurance, a different set, and if you’re unlucky enough to show up with no insurance at all, the hospital bill might well be astronomically high.

But why? Why so much for a dose of aspirin, let alone an x-ray or MRI.  It’s an important question...but one that you might not easily be able to find an answer to.

Today, we’re talking about the cost of healthcare, and joining us is Steven Brill, lecturer at Yale University, founder of the Yale Journalism Initiative, author of "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us", a TIME special report.

Also joining us are Vicki Veltri, CT’s healthcare advocate, and Dan Haar, Business editor for the Hartford Courant. And we want to hear from you.

Join us on Facebookor tweet us @wherewelive.



Ken writes:

Mr. Dankosky,
Thank you for this AM's program concerning health care costs. I read the "Time" article earlier in the week. I thought I was knowledgeable but found my knowledge incomplete as I moved through the article. Your program added to my knowledge base. While I admire the courage of the St Francis executive for representing the hospitals point of view I found his answers to questions and statements about costs lacking credibility. The idea that medicare and medicaid result in underfunding of costs is something that Mr. Brill refutes in his "Time" piece.Please be ready to leave the door to this topic open for future programs. Revisit, Do it Again. The more public sunshine that lights up this topic the closer we get to getting some control over the single greatest expense area in our national economy.

Closer to home, have your producers and yourself continue to explore the UConn. expansion plans. I'm part of town government in Mansfield. A member of the PZC and chair of the "4 Corners Water and Sewer Advisory Committee". While there is lot to like about Dannel Malloy. I voted for him and worked for his election. The governor's presence with Catherine Sullivan's on your program earlier this week gives me some reason to question his grasp of the implications of growing UConn in the way that current administration seems to believe is necessary for Connecticut's economic growth. For the 2nd time in 4 or 5 weeks that I have found Malloy's statements about the need to grow at the "Flag Ship" university to leave out any of the consequences of this growth to the towns of North East Conn. Gov. Malloy's notion that water is the only problem is far too narrow a view. There are lots of Democrats in Mansfield who have supported the governor who's support he will not have if the process continues in the direction that it is being pointed in by his leadership.

Jennifer writes:

My lovely son Adam was a non-verbal autistic boy who died of Duchennes muscular dystrophy when he was 24. He had spent 11 years in a wheelchair. I once went to a great conference at Central Connecticut State University on the needs of the handicapped. It was daunting to walk into an auditorium where almost everyone in the room arrived in wheelchairs. One of the most startling presentations was given by a woman in a wheelchair who had charted the cost of her wheelchair from its original cost at the manufacturer, through the maze of insurances, to the final cost of the wheelchair which had increased tenfold!

It exposed a world to me that I had not fully considered until then. How is a family with a handicapped child, or an adult with special needs, in a position to question the costs of equipment which they desperately need?

Our daughter Christina, a perfectly healthy and athletic young woman, who is an art teacher in Boston, (who had been Co-Captain, along with her identical twin sister of the Hotchkiss School track team), suddenly needed open heart surgery when she was 27 years old to correct an undetected heart anomaly! The surgery at MassGeneral was a complete success (Christina is having her first baby this August!), but it cost a half a million dollars. Fortunately, she had great insurance through her school and the entire event cost her $250. If she had not had a job with medical insurance at that time, she would be paying back her surgery costs the rest of her life.

Thank you for raising the issue of the lack of transparency in how our medical care is paid for. Bringing down actual health care costs should be the ultimate Affordable Health Care outcome. None of us know what hand we have been dealt medically, so it is an issue that EVERYONE faces. In the world of my son, we are all termed TABs (temporarily able-bodied!) people.

Another recent experience I had startled me. My physician has a bone density scanner available for use in the very Medical Center in which I sat in my examination gown. My physician had to tell me that she could NOT give me the test I needed in her office, because my insurance company, Connecticare, would only cover the bone density test if it was administered by our local hospital! I am going to carefully compare the costs of each, and add to it my inconvenience and cost of driving to a different location. Since we pay for the medical insurance we have, the consumer should have more say in how our care is managed and paid for.

Thanks for your responsible programming - Where We Live is a wonderful and important show.

Eleanor writes:

A diagnosis of breast cancer is frightening. After an extensive round of questioning I was given an estimate of $7000 for a test procedure at a large and very respected American teaching hospital.
By chance, I was traveling to a Scandinavian country the following week. On the urging of friends, I had the test procedure done there. I was given a bill of - are you sitting down - $36.00. The procedure was thorough and efficient. There were apologies that I had to pay anything but, since I was not a taxpayer, I was charged THE ACTUAL COST. These costs were spelled out in detail and given to me as a print-out immediately after the procedure. Also, the doctor who performed the tests phoned me the next day to assure me of the test results. That the results were negative was marvelous; the way the cost and payment were handled was enlightened. I have never been able to comprehend the reason behind the Byzantine American system since that experience in Scandinavia. American physicians with whom I have discussed this dismiss the experience immediately and go in to the lock-down Socialism posture. It is most discouraging.

Today's program is a brilliant step in alerting the consumers of American health care.

Patti writes:

Great discussion!

When I get an inflated bill from my Doctor and then my insurance company comes back and says no this is the negotiated price, which is significantly lower, does my Doctor get an tax deduction for the difference calming a business loss?


Jennifer writes:

I spent five years caring for my mother. She died at age 87. She had multiple health challenges - heart attack, dementia, and an abdominal aneurysm which is what ultimately killed her. I am a photographer - not a medical professional- but was fastidious in my record-keeping for the five years I was responsible for Mom. There was too little contact between her Primary Care physician, her Cardiac specialist, and me, her Primary Caregiver. I had a notebook with a list of her daily blood pressure, her activities, changes in her diet, and the list of meds and their dosage. I checked off meds as I administered them and flagged certain areas of concern. My husband pointed out our veterinarian, who uses a computer program for his work, knows more about our labrador retriever's current medical status than Mom's doctors did!

These issues are not just about the health of the patient, but also impact the cost of her treatment. I once followed a single change in her meds and found that ONE change cost her $2,500. between her emergency room visits for dehydration and high potassium levels, the various tests to get her back on track, and the full 3 months of just- purchased new meds that I had to discard. I believe the onus should be on the physician that is prescribing the meds to get the tolerance and dosage issues right, BEFORE the patient has to purchase the full prescription.

I began dreamimg of a computer program where the Caregiver would be given a central role in the trio or quartet of medical caregivers (ie doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, therapists) that would also need to share the info. The caregiver could not diagnose or prescribe anything, but could monitor the entire program as it affected her own mother or father. Turns out that ProjectHealthDesign, funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is doing just that. They have collected stories like mine and are incorporating them into the solutions. I had the most invested in my mother's well being and was, in fact, a big part of her medical team. This system would also work well for nursing homes and other professional caregivers. Being a caregiver for a parent is an extremely difficult, emotionally draining experience. It is also the right thing to do and has its own rewards. Creating a system that honored the commitment and made caring for our parents more of a team effort, would go a long way in encouraging more people to choose the responsibilities of caregiving and would make our parents safer.

Becky writes:

I know what my health care costs because my insurance carrier Anthem provides me with a cost comparison chart online of my cost after discount. For every procedure, mammogram, MRI, sonogram, my local hospital New Milford Hospital is usually 4x or more greater than a stand alone imaging company. My insurance company will pay wherever I go, so I only cost shop until I hit my high deductible of $3500. After that I don’t care because I am 100% reimbursed, and I don’t cost shop. I go where my doctor says, who has no idea what anything costs.

However my insurance plan is in a death spiral. The CT Insurance Dept approved a 14.5% premium increase for the 19,000 in Anthem’s individual plans based on utilitzation. Needless to say, people can’t afford the increases and are dropping out so only the really sick are left. Thank god for Medicare where I will be in three years after 3 more years of 14% increases.

Chris writes:

One very unusual and confusing factor in hospital prices is related o the corporate structure. The doctors in most cases do not work directly for the hospitals.