Maternity Suites At $4,000 A Night And Panda Poop Tea At $34,000 A Pound

Ed Raymond

There’s no dull day in the United States when so much makes no sense at all. Here we are in a country that has major hospitals advertising $4,000-a-night maternity suites (all medical charges extra!) while it ranks 29th out of the top 30 industrialized countries in infant mortality. Norway, with universal health care available for every citizen, is second in the world in health care expenditures and spends slightly over $4,000 per capita per year to take care of everybody. We spend over $8,000 per capita per year while leaving almost 50 million (20 percent) of our population without health insurance! Out of 194 recognized countries, Norwegians are in 13th place in life expectancy at 80.2 years while we wallow in 36th place and die at 78.3. What would two more years be worth?

   France has the best overall health care in the world according to the World Health Organization, has universal care, and spends half of what we do. Maybe this could be one reason medical care costs so much in the U.S.: the average coronary angioplasty costs $14,378 in the U. S. and $7,027 in France.
Why Are We Paying $10,000 A Night For Hospital Suites?
 Out of the 80 percent of our citizens who are insured, no doubt a few get superb health care—but many others get average or inferior care. We are ranked 34th in the world in overall health care, just behind Fidel and Raul Castro’s Cuba, by the World Health Organization. It must be a commy-pinko front.
   It’s evident we are not getting our money’s worth. Germany, which has had universal health care since 1883 because that great liberal Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck thought that healthy citizens made a healthy country, does appendectomies for one-fourth of what our hospitals and doctors charge. An MRI in Germany is two-thirds less than what we charge. The average price in the U.S. is about $1,100. You can get one in Tokyo for $98. No wonder our “Health Care for Idiots” is terminal and should be placed in national hospice care.
  I got curious why Germany paid so little for such a common surgical procedure as an appendectomy, so I Googled U.S. surgery costs until I got a reliable source. This source lists the average prices for 31 different surgeries. The range for appendectomies is actually obscene, but believable, because it is happening in the U.S. The surgical costs average $13,405 per patient, but costs for the total care average $67,550, including “complications.”
    Several personal stories were included with the surgical estimates.

(1) This surgery took place in a hospital named PeaceHealth, a southwest medical center. This appendectomy totaled out at $29,914 and was considered a normal one. The bill breakdown was fascinating:
Pharmacy – $2,153.78; Incidental drugs – $125; Medical-surgical supplies – $8,127; Sterile supplies – $1,990; Lab tests – $624; Path lab – $346; CT body scan – $4,777; Operating room – $5,414; Anesthesia – $1,134; Emergency room – $2,750; Recovery room – $1,094. (As you can see, this is only a partial list!)

   (2) This California case is unusual but should be read by young people who are immortal and invulnerable, even without helmets. Here are some particulars as written in a report by the patient: “I do not have insurance. The total price, $294,998...I will most likely NEVER be able to pay. I was rushed to hospital...CT scan revealed ruptured appendix...four hours in surgery...had peritonitis and two abscesses...on ventilator for two days...spent 16 days in hospital...happy to be alive...but jeez, am I ever going to be able to afford $294,998?”

   (3) In this case, Dean from Round Rock, Texas, tells his story: “Went to ER with abdominal pain and fever, took my appendix out and I left the next morning. Surgery and MRI were about $2,500. Hospital bill was $45,000, does not list anything!”

   (4) In another case from Monterey Park, California, a man had an appendectomy, stayed one night in hospital, and was billed $43,000. His insurance company HealthNet paid the bill minus the $100 copay.

   (5) In a foreign case, Stephanie was traveling in Italy and had an emergency appendectomy. She spent two hours in surgery and 11 days in the hospital. She never saw billing because Italy has universal health care and the government pays hospitals directly, even for non-citizens. Her only cost was $8.50 for a prescription anti-acid.
 (6) Svyatoslov in Russia had an appendectomy and the state paid the total bill except for $200 additional for a private room.
  (7) A Canadian in Alberta Province having surgery for emergency appendectomy paid a total of $4 for her surgery and hospital stay. She needed Tylenol after the surgery. I don’t think she waited six months for surgery—which is the usual right-wing charge against the Canadian “socialistic” universal care system.
  I think the following jury award in a recent California lawsuit is symptomatic of what is wrong with medicine and society in this country. A man was thrown off his motorcycle by a van at an intersection and suffered fractures to his pubic bone and injuries to the nerves and arteries of his penis. Reconstructive surgery was successful, restoring function, but he lost 1.5 inches in the process. The jury found the van driver at fault and awarded the cyclist $7,553,000 for pain, suffering, medical bills, loss of income, and loss of 1.5 inches. If you think that was a reasonable settlement, please stop here. Nothing I write from here on will make any sense to you.

The Race Is On For Profits

   With the screams of “ObamaCare” and “Socialized Medicine” ringing in our ears from the right-wing politicians, and the Gordon Gekko CEOs of health insurance companies complaining that any heath care reforms will put them out of business, the 35 major health insurers are quietly reporting ever-widening profit margins in our recession. How can that be? We are all suffering, right? The middle class, the rapidly shrinking part of the 99 Percent, has not gotten a raise in 30 years. How can the insurance companies report they are having the best year in the last decade?

   A Bloomberg government analysis showed health insurance companies had an operating profit margin of 8.65 percent after ObamaCare was passed, compared to 6.9 percent 18 months prior to the law, exceeding all of Wall Street’s expectations. The five largest health insurers—UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, Aetna, Humana, and Cigna—are all doing very well, claiming that they are doing a better job of managing their health programs. Of course, they have all raised their premiums during this recession!

An Autopsy Report On
Why We Have Lousy Health
Care For The 99 Percent

   The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development surveys and maintains data in many economic areas for the 34 countries identified as the most advanced industrial nations. The United States is the only one of the 34 that does not have some form of a universal health care program for all citizens. They have us nailed:

** Although Germany, Italy, and Japan have much higher percentages of the elderly than   we do, they spend less than half as much in that category. Their citizens live a minimum of two years more. So what’s the deal? The simple fact is that we wait until the elderly are just about dead before we help them—then we overspend on tests, MRIs, body scans, drugs, hospitalization, and surgery because we don’t want to recognize that death happens. And to Dr. Gordon Gekko and hospital CEO Gordon Gekko, this is where the money is, the last three months of life.

** The U.S. is way behind other countries in using electronic health records; consequently we commit more errors and costly duplications. Insurance companies employ absolute hordes of clerks and accountants to ensure we will insure only those who are well. Some insurance companies spend only 70 percent of their income on actual health care. The balance goes to Gekko pay, administrative costs, and profits.

** No other country has million-dollar Gekko doctors or $10,000-a-day rooms. U.S. doctors are paid more than four times what doctors in the other 33 countries earn. A letter to the editor of USA Today from a U.S. doctor is quite revealing: “Not all doctors are in it for the money...Some think about all their patients, not just the ones who can afford it...while [ObamaCare] is at best a work in progress, those [doctors] who suggest things were tolerable as long as they were well-paid scare me.” “Some” is an interesting word. The fact that primary doctors are paid a lot less than specialists should tell us something about the profession.  Primary is where the real shortage is. Nor do hospitals and insurance companies in other countries spend millions on naming rights for athletic facilities or for construction of stadiums and basketball courts. They actually spend those millions on health care for their citizens.

** Another research arm, the Commonwealth Fund, says the U.S. is terrific at giving patients what they want, such as getting to a specialist and elective surgery faster than patients in other countries. Our cardiologists carve faster than anyone in the other 33. At the same time, we experience more medical errors because care is uncoordinated and health records are poorly kept. There is also the fact that people without insurance often wait until it is too late for inexpensive treatment because they can’t afford primary treatment.
** We often hear the chant from the ignorant that “We Have the Best Health Care in the World!!” We do rank near the top in survival rates for breast and colorectal cancer, but we are below average in cervical cancer. With so many hospitals heavily involved in the heart business (that’s where the real money is), one might think we are pretty good at it. We are not. We don’t rank above the middle of the pack. And there’s no big money in pneumonia.

What A Silly Idea:
To Fix Health Care,
Help The Poor!!

   Yale University has collected data from 30 industrialized countries about health and social costs for over ten years. Although we spend twice as much on health care as any other in the 30, we rank in the bottom half in life expectancy and infant mortality. But if we count money spent toward health care and social services, we rank near the bottom in the 30. For every dollar spent on health care, we spend only 90 cents on social services. In the other countries they spend two dollars on social services for every dollar spent on health care. That’s why their babies survive at twice our rate and why they live up to five years longer than we do. But instead of learning medical and social basics from foreign countries such as Sweden and France, we keep on having babies die at twice their rate and live shorter lives. Only one word fits: STUPID. And the Republicans and Pro-Lifers are doing it to us. The first few years of life are very important. In research by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, four out of five physicians agree that unmet social needs lead directly to worse health. Why don’t we pay some attention to the experts?
  North Dakota has an uninsured population of 74,092. Multiply that number by the annual U.S. per capita medical expenditure of $8,000. Who is going to pay that $592,736,000 to keep them alive and somewhat healthy? Minnesota has an uninsured population of 453,310. Do the math. That’s $3,626,480,000 to keep Viking fans drinking beer in the stands instead of being toes up. Who is going to pay these billions? Shall we charge off over $4.6 billion to emergency rooms? It’s tough to get a kidney transplant or have a three-inch nail removed from your brain in an ER.
The American people have been sold a ballast of bilge about “socialized medicine.” Sooner or later we are going to have to go to a single-payer, universal care system to hold down costs and take care of our sick before the Gekkos drive us all to bankruptcy. Instead of drinking the Kool-Aid, we are drinking tea made from panda poop at $34,000 a pound. The Chinese seller says the “panda’s excrement is rich in fiber, nutrients, and anti-oxidants, and has a mature, nutty taste and a very distinctive aroma.” The guy has great plans. He has collected five tons of panda poop. I think the American people will turn him into a billionaire. His next scam will be a for-profit hospital.