We have all either heard stories about astronomical cost of visiting the emergency room or an extended stay at a hospital or we have been victims of it ourselves. As a rule of thumb, when you visit an ER at a hospital in a big city in the U.S. the cost will be $1,200-$12,000 depending on the nature and reason for the visit. For example, an arm broken in 2 places will cost you $3000 for exam, x-ray and a cast. If there is need for a catscan or MRI cost will go up to $5000-$6000.
God forbid if you go in with chest pains which results in an angioplasty; you will be looking at bills in excess of $40,000.
If you have insurance, the size of the bill is really not a problem. At most your cost will be $8000, which represent a 20% copay.
If you don't have insurance, you better get the jar of KY Jelly and grab your ankles. 43% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to emergency medical care.
Why are the insurance costs so ridiculously high? Should a Tylenol+codeine pill cost $7 or should a 3 minute exam by a doctor cost $700 ? The answer is invariably no.
In the last 35 years or so, health insurance companies have forced the "retail" or "published" healthcare costs to be increased year after year after year. Why? There are at least 3 very good reasons:
1) The higher the healthcare costs without insurance, the more people are forced to buy insurance.
2) The higher the perceived healthcare costs, the more these companies can charge for premiums.
3) The higher the costs, the more patients can be charged directly for co-pay.
Its a win-win-win proposition for the insurance companies. But lets see whats happened to the actual healthcare providers and patients. When medical bills are so high that people would go broke paying them, guess what; people don't pay. So hospitals and clinics get shafted when they treat people without insurance.
Patients are either left without insurance or are forced to buy insurance at $1,200 a month for a family of 4. In many States, $1200 is more than rent or house mortgage payment.
Obamacare is a far cry from a decent universal healthcare program. But its a small step in the right direction. For those of us who live in the U.S., when its time for elections, vote for the representatives who are in favor of decent and affordable healthcare for the general public; a system which is not controlled by insurance companies.
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