Whistleblower: A lost bid to control health costs

  • Article by: James Eli Shiffer , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 21, 2009 - 10:35 PM

A Hopkins couple without health insurance tried in vain to rein in expenses on a quick trip to the hospital.

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spetuniaMar. 21, 09 5:54 PM

I'm completely empathetic as my family and I are on COBRA, however...had no CT been done and the condition ultimately ended up to be a serious situation (malignancy or ???), we'd be reading about how the hospital was negligent in misdiagnosing or not providing complete diagnostic services due to a lack of insurance coverage. They're damned if they do, damned if they don't.

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SigfriedMar. 21, 09 6:12 PM

Current health care systems are built around a third party payer. As long as someone else is paying, most patients don't care what it costs. Our clinics and hospitals are very happy to cater to that and hinder any consideration of cost when doling out care.

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minime333Mar. 21, 09 6:15 PM

Would they qualify for that? Too little too late, but a monthly insurance premium would have cost less than a CT scan. Would have been worth it to get at least a basic plan. That's why it's called "insurance."

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minime333Mar. 21, 09 6:24 PM

Hospitals have contracts with payers. Every contract with every payer is different. A procedure may cost a cash paying patient $1000, but the rate that a payer has contracted to pay may be $500. The hospital or provider can not bill the patient for the balance due - it's Minnesota law. So they do care what procedures they perform because they make very little money off some of them due to the contracted rates. Knowing that my procedure costs less because of these contracts makes my monthly premiums a lot easier to swallow. I still choke on them, but not as much.

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lvonleheMar. 21, 09 6:44 PM

did you notice? Nobody asked THAT question. Take a look. $780 times 20CTs/day times 365days/year. That's 5.7 MILLION. Those machines are WELL under a million now. Room rent is $100K/year. That leaves 5.5 MILLION left over. The people who run it are NOT doctors-they earn a salary. Four of them on shift is 600K/year, maybe 7. Where does the other 4.5 MILLION go? Well, some of it is in discounts for insurance and some of it is gratis. The real truth is THIS is where the medical costs are OUT OF HAND. This the money that the hospital admins and the lawyers love to take from you. And, they laugh all the way to the bank. America. This is the REAL AIG.

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minime333Mar. 21, 09 6:54 PM

See my comment above about how much hospitals actually get paid. Don't forget insurance, malpractice cases, the number of people involved in doing something like a CT scan, lab fees, etc. It costs more than you think it should.

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pdxtranMar. 21, 09 7:29 PM

You have to be pretty low-income to quality for Minnesota Care (less than $1768 per month for a couple), and if you're even a hair above it, you pay full market prices. The premiums for a market-rate insurance policy, even a high deductible one, would be well over $500 a month for a couple in their 50s, and that's if they have a good medical history. If either of them has ever had anything serious wrong, the monthly premiums go through the roof to $500 or more EACH. So can you see how a married couple would have maybe a $2000 a month income--too high for MN Care--and yet too low to make the monthly premiums affordable?

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lvonleheMar. 21, 09 7:45 PM

Can you say greedy lawyers? The Liberals try to claim it is only 1% of the cost of health care, but the truth is it is a HUGE cost of health care. And, what do WE get for it? Better service? Wrong. Higher prices? Right. Just because someone has been sued does not make them smarter-in many cases it makes service worse.

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johnnyonspotMar. 21, 09 7:53 PM

If you are well off and want to pay for convenience, go ahead. I will take a universal, single-payor program that costs me nothing but a portion of my taxes, and let the government run it. They already do, Medicare, and its cheaper than the privates. Why? Because there are no William McGuires being paid gazillions of (our) dollars merely for being at the head of a company.

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AuntieWendyMar. 21, 09 7:54 PM

Have you ever tried to pay for health insurance on your own? I used to have an employer who didn't offer any insurance coverage at all, leaving me to pay the full amount on my own. I didn't qualify for any type of assistance, because I wasn't self-employed I couldn't claim a credit on my taxes, and it wasn't enough of my income to be able to deduct it. The cost was over $10.00 PER DAY at a non-smoker's rate, and that was just for one person. It wasn't even a premium policy. A basic policy is not affordable for most people.

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