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Why Are American Health Care Costs So High? -- Video

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 8:14 am
Image Credit: Caduceus with dollar sign from the trust

After you watch the video here are some other things to consider about the health care changes.

So, more than three years after our last health-care-whoppers piece (published just before the law was signed in 2010), we’re giving readers a rundown of the top claims.

Some have been around for years, and others are relatively new. Most touch on three topics: jobs, premium costs and medical care. For instance:

◾Republicans have made the overblown claim that the law is a job-killer, but experts predict a small impact on mainly low-wage jobs. The Republican National Committee says 8.2 million part-timers can’t find full-time work “partly” due to the law. That’s the total number of part-time workers who want full-time jobs, and there’s no evidence from official jobs figures that the law has had an impact.

◾Proponents say premiums will go down, while opponents say they’ll go up. In general, employer plans won’t be affected much, and a price change for individuals seeking their own insurance will vary from person to person. Obama claimed that all of the uninsured would see lower premiums than what they could get now (before accounting for federal subsidies), but that’s not the case.

◾Critics continue to make scary claims about the government coming between you and your doctor, but the law doesn’t set up a government-run system. If anything, the law comes between you and your insurance company, forbidding them from capping your coverage or charging you more based on health status. Meanwhile, Obama can’t promise you can keep your plan. Employers are free to switch coverage, just as they were before.

And there’s more. Since 2010, we’ve been debunking the persistent claim that members of Congress are somehow exempt from the law. They’re not. The administration’s recent decision to give exchanges leeway in how they verify suspect applications for subsidies sparked the false claim that Americans can list what they’d like for their incomes and won’t face verification.

Beyond these more reasonable topics, we’ve seen our share of far-fetched viral messages about microchips being implanted in patients and forced home inspections by the government. Rest assured. Neither is true.


The law is long, complicated and still being implemented. Many of the claims we’ve seen — and expect to see for some time to come — center on the impact on employers (or employees), premium rates and medical decisions.

More information and expanded details at:


Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 8:20 am

Citing latest Census count of 48 million uninsured, researcher says Affordable Care Act will cut that figure by only half, leaving tens of millions vulnerable to unnecessary suffering and premature death

The Census Bureau’s official estimate that 48 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2012 means approximately 48,000 people died needlessly last year because they couldn’t get access to timely and appropriate care, a prominent health researcher, Dr. David Himmelstein, said today.

And contrary to many people’s expectations, the number of unprotected Americans will drop by only half when Obamacare is fully implemented – even if all the as yet undecided states were to opt-in to the law’s Medicaid expansion, he said. …

In a recent study published at the Health Affairs blog, Himmelstein and his colleagues found that the Affordable Care Act “will minimally alter the demographic composition of the uninsured, regardless of whether undecided states opt-in or out. While Blacks and Hispanics will continue to be overrepresented among the uninsured, the majority will be non-Hispanic, white, low-income, working-age adults, many of them employed.” ...

Responding to today’s Census Bureau report, Himmelstein said: “As a physician, I simply cannot accept a situation where tens of thousands of people die every year because they lack insurance coverage. And lest anyone think this problem will be solved by Obamacare, our research and the government’s own Congressional Budget Office projections show that about 30 million people will still be uninsured in 2023. That figure translates into roughly 30,000 excess deaths annually – again, an intolerable prospect.”

Himmelstein said the nation should adopt a “zero-tolerance policy” toward lack of health coverage, and that the Census Bureau report “underscores the urgency of going beyond the Affordable Care Act and swiftly moving to a single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all program.”

“Such a program would assure truly universal, comprehensive, high-quality coverage for everyone while simultaneously ridding us of the scourge of insurance-company-related waste, bureaucracy and profiteering,” he said. “It would thereby save both lives and money.”

Patrick Donovan (344)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 8:22 am
Must watch TV!

Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 8:25 am

Obama care or the ACA will help many get insurance will certainly help with pre-exsiting conditions, allow families to keep children on the insurance until age 26 and those allowed to participate in the exchanges will save money, the million dollar limits will be critical to those who are diagnosed with catastrophic illness, these are undeniable improvements. This will not end the overall access to health care in the this country. We must have universal health care or Medicare for all.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 8:29 am

On the man who went to Belgium to get a hip replacement

"In Belgium, he paid $13,660 for everything. That included his new hip implant, the surgeon's fees, the hospital fees, a week in rehab and a round-trip plane ticket from the U.S., soup to nuts.

"Now, if he had done that surgery in the U.S, it would've been billed at somewhere between $100,000 and $130,000 at a private hospital. ... So there's a huge difference. In fact, this gentleman, Mr. Shopenn, was a great consumer, and he tried to have it done in the U.S., and he priced out joint implants and found that the wholesale joint implant cost ... was $13,000. So in the U.S., for that $13,000 he could get a joint — a piece of metal and plastic and ceramic — whereas in Europe he could get everything."

On joint-makers keeping prices high

"You would think that if five different companies were making candy bars, that would drive the price of candy bars lower. But if five different companies are making joints and trying to sell them at $10,000 a piece, it's really in no one's interest to say, 'Hey, guess what guys? I'm going to sell mine for $1,000 because that's what it really costs me to make it.' Because then everyone loses money; the whole industry kind of implodes."

On the challenge of standardizing medical equipment

"It's hard to get the companies to, say, standardize the equipment ... so you can use a generic system to implant any brand of joint. It's not in their interest to do that. It's like saying to Apple and Microsoft, 'We want all of your programs to be completely interchangeable.' At some level, at a business level, you want your brand distinct, and you want to keep people in the universe of your brand. In many ways, it's a business decision as much as a medical decision."

On how billing practices in the U.S. compare to those in Europe

"Routinely, for most procedures in other countries, patients stay in the hospital longer; their hospital bills are much less. They tend to see things as a package. I think one of the most striking things when you look at the Belgian hospital bill, as opposed to the U.S. one, is on the U.S. hospital bill for a joint replacement, you see things like operating room fees, recovery room fees. And those [were on] one of the bills I looked at: operating room fees, $13,000; recovery room fees, $6,000; facility fees, x-thousand dollars.

"If you look at a European bill, those things don't exist. And you know, in fact, it was kind of funny when I started on this series — although sad in another way — when I would call some of the European hospitals and say, 'Well, what's your facility fee on that? What's your operating room fee?' and there was this puzzled pause at the other end of the line where they said, 'What do you mean an operating room fee? You can't do the surgery without an operating room. That's a part of our day rate for the hospital. It's all included.' "

Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 8:39 am

Because we can not just rely on one you tube for facts and information I have provided you with numerous excepts from articles and fact check information.

If you wish to fact check John Green (author in the video) here are there references used.

For a much more thorough examination of health care expenses in America, I recommend this series at The Incidental Economist:

The Commonwealth Fund's Study of Health Care Prices in the US:

If you missed reading: Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us (Stephen Brill)
How outrageous pricing and egregious profits are destroying our health care - this is a must read!

Read more:,9171,2136864,00.html#ixzz2fG8CprIU

Some of the stats in this video also come from this New York Times story:

Arielle S (313)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 11:46 am
Excellent information that has a lot of (gasp!) FACTS! And I liked the piece about the hip replacement - people often mistakenly assume medical care is the best here, but when we're #37 or so, there are many places that give not just less expensive but even better medical care.

Jaime Alves (52)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 2:24 pm
Noted, thanks.

Mike M (40)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 2:31 pm
It is just a game of greed and theft played by the corporations to take all they can while making the people of America sick and then screwing them over to heal them.

Roger G (154)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 3:11 pm
noted, thanks

Sheryl G (363)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 3:56 pm
Wow, he said a lot, but simply put.......bottom line, we need to change as it isn't working. Why isn't the Right wing speaking up about our paying higher taxes on health care yet not everyone is covered as in the rest of the world that has a type of Universal Health Care system.

Barbara K (60)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 4:17 pm
Truly, there is no reason for our medical bills to be so high. If other countries can do these services cheaper, so can we. I always thought it was stupid to charge for the operating room, the recovery room, and the surgery, etc., all priced, priced high I might add, for a surgery. Then there is the cost of the surgery, and meds, the anesthesia, and anesthesiologist, the administration of it, the band aid to cover the injection site, plus the removal of the anesthesia, and it goes on and on, paying separately for every single thing they did. All are way over priced services. Even office visits to the doctor are high. Then there is the cost of tests, EKG's and all tests performed being added to the bill. You end up with pages of charges. If you check them out, you will find that you not only paid like $5 for a band aid, but you also paid for them to apply the band-aid. But it is also possible that you didn't even get a band aid on you anywhere, but were charged anywhere (that is just one example). It is very expensive to get sick in this country. Obamacare is also trying to bring those costs down.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 5:13 pm

That's okay Ros, most of us don't understand it either. Though I have provide enough information, (above) that even a member of Congress could learn to understand the complexity of the problem. Obama care will help to bring down some costs, the price of insurance is dropping for those who are able to use the exchanges.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 6:18 pm

I chose to remain hopeful that after the bumps of this phase of health care reform is complete we can then finally get on with Medicare for all.

Katie & Bill D (107)
Wednesday September 18, 2013, 11:15 pm
Hope fully when this all worked out we all will be much better off. Anything new just takes a little time! We should have had Universal Health Care. If other countries can do it we should have too!!

Thank You Kit

TomCat S (129)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 2:03 am
Where we are right now is better that RepubliCare, where you get the RepubliCare Death Benefit, if you cannot pay. It was the best we could get at the time. If we remove enough Republicans, we can make ObamaCare like Medicare.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 4:17 am
because its private and profit is involved

Gloria picchetti (304)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 5:59 am
If the GOP shuts down Obamacare they are in for a shock. All republicans are not wealthy and healthy. They need Obamacare.

Sheryl G (363)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 6:05 am
And this is where they have done an injustice to the less than financially sound Republicans Gloria where much mis-information, scare tactics and other tricks to keep it from passing or now to defund it has come into play. To get people to slice their own throats even if they be within their own Party. They don't care about everyone in the Party nor the Nation, they care only about a small segment and keeping them in the lap of luxury and power they are in today.

This still isn't what many of us wanted for a Universal Health Care policy but is in hopes eventually it will lead there, and that is what the Insurance Industry is terrified of.

Kit B (276)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 7:05 am

Exactly, we are hoping it will take us to Universal health care. I am concerned though, this is a huge policy package, and once it's fully implemented I doubt it will be easy to replace.

Ben O (171)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 10:43 am
Swedish health care:
The Swedish healthcare system gives everyone who lives or works in Sweden equal access to heavily subsidized healthcare. The system is taxpayer-funded and largely decentralized, and performs well in comparison with other countries at a similar level of development. Medical results are good relative to investments and despite funding restrictions...

Kit B (276)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 10:56 am

Yes Ben, that is the key. Keep people healthy and not just coming in when something has finally reached a critical stage. Thanks for information about health care in Sweden.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 7:06 pm
Thanks Kit; great post; wonderful comments; excellent humour in the video!

reft h (66)
Thursday September 19, 2013, 11:42 pm
thanks for the post

Colin R (0)
Friday September 20, 2013, 12:34 am
A far simpler analysis is that US health care insurance and provision is a profiteering racket out of something that is a basic hyman right and not a commodity. Heatlh care should be paid for out of tax revenues which are instead spent on arms and wars. Here in the UK we too are fighting a right wing government's relentless attempts to privatise health care. You can guess whose pockets they are in!!
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