Hospitals Mock the Free Market
Hospital Prices No Longer Secret As New Data Reveals Bewildering System, Staggering Cost Differences
When a patient arrives at Bayonne Hospital Center in New Jersey requiring treatment for the respiratory ailment known as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, she faces an official price tag of $99,690.
Less than 30 miles away in the Bronx, N.Y., the Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center charges only $7,044 for the same treatment, according to a massive federal database of national health care costs made public on Wednesday.
Americans have long become accustomed to bewilderment and anxiety when confronting health care bills. The new database underscores why, revealing the perplexing assortment of prices for medical care, with the details of bills seemingly untethered to any graspable principle.
Even within the same metropolitan area, hospitals charge prices that differ by staggering degrees for the same procedures. People without health insurance pay vastly higher costs for care when less expensive options are often available nearby. Virtually everyone who seeks health care winds up paying inflated prices in one form or another as these stark disparities in price sow inefficiencies throughout the market.
Given the opportunity to charge without oversight, hospitals developed a byzantine pricing system that was favorable to them in every way. I am shocked. I want the free market fundamentalists to come here and take a long good look. This is reality. Market actors misusing the system to cruelly abuse their customers and our only hope of salvation, the much maligned government. That is, unless, you want to wait for the hospitals to wake up and realize that the free market is better for everybody? Maybe their profits blind them to the unearthly beauty of your doctrine? What do you think?