New Infographic Reveals Why Medical Bills Are So High And How You Can Fight Them
We are excited to release our new infographic entitled “Why Your Medical Bills So High and How You Can Fight Them”. This new infographic aims to expose several of the layers behind the high cost of medical bills including economic expenditure, what constitutes an overcharge, examples of overcharges, and how you can fight the overcharges. There is a wealth of data exposed here that we’re excited to get out to the public in this graphical format.
Click the image below to view in full resolution.
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Excessive Costs in Health Care: Where do we draw the Line?
You’re experiencing one of the most traumatic events of your life. Lying on the narrow, thinly padded “bed” in the emergency room, all you can think of is how badly you need relief. The nurse comes in and hands you a small, paper cup containing two small pills. You eagerly pop them in your mouth and gulp them down with a few swallows of water. You lie back and hope that your symptoms soon will pass…
Several weeks later, that evening is far from your mind. Your daughter runs into the kitchen and hands you the daily stack of mail. You begin to tear into the envelopes.
What is this? A bill? For what? You suddenly recall that evening when your back pain was so intense that you had no choice but have your spouse rush you to the hospital so that you could have some relief. Your vitals were taken and noted. You were asked a series of questions about your past health history and that of your nearest blood relatives. A test was done and blood was drawn. It was discovered that you were slightly dehydrated, so you received a bag of I.V. fluid and waited for it to run in. You received two oral medications and an injection. You talked to a nurse and (very briefly) to a physician. But how can those few routine and common practices and treatments cost this much?
You look at the paper again. The numbers are astronomical. Thousands of dollars. How is this possible? This can’t be correct. After all, you were only in the ER for four hours!
This scenario is all too familiar for thousands of Americans. In fact, if you’ve been a patient in a health care facility in the United States within the last several years you likely had a similar reaction to your medical bill. Even with health insurance, the out-of-pocket cost of treatment can be devastating.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average cost of an emergency room visit in the United States was $969 in 2010 for Americans of all ages. Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 averaged a bill of $1097. This figure has doubled for this age group from 2000, when the average cost of an emergency room visit was $539. The net change is not that great for children under 18 years of age, with an average increase of $83 in a decade. For seniors, the average cost of an emergency room visit rose from $720 to $1062. Please note that these figures do not account for charges from other departments nor do they reflect visits which result in inpatient admissions.
Unfortunately, an emergency room visit is not usually the most expensive aspect of health care. If you must stay overnight in a hospital in the United States, the charges can be astounding. Becker’s Hospital Review published statistics from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality’s Health Care Cost and Utilization Project 2007 and revealed that the average length of stay is 4.6 days and the average charges are $26,120. While in the hospital, patients receive a variety of treatments based on their condition.
Here are a few items that Medical Recovery Services has noted during a series of detailed audits of clients’ medical bills:
Mucous recovery system (box of tissues) $11.59
Alcohol swab $23
Handling fee (cost of technician walking a vial of blood to the lab) $18
Oral administration fee (cost of a nurse handing a patient a pill) $12
Oxygen setup (turning valve or button to ON position) $26
Thermal therapy (a bag of ice) $15
If the above charges didn’t alarm you, these will:
A pair of scissors: $9,600
Venipuncture (inject needle to draw blood) $680
Medicine cup (NOT the actual medicine, but the small, white paper cup into which it is poured or placed) $470
Although these might not be typical prices from medical facilities across the board, it should awaken consumers to take a good look at what they are being billed.
Anyone who has received a medical bill should request an itemized statement. The health care facility must provide you with this information if you request it – it’s your right. Once you receive your itemized bill, it might be overwhelming and confusing, but that’s okay. That’s when you should consider having a medical billing advocate on your side. They will help you decipher and understand your bill, just for starters.
What has happened to our health care system? A combination of factors contribute to the overall problem of over-priced health care. For example, according to health economist David Cutler, administration costs account for 25% of all health care expenses.
The New England Journal of Medicine states that between 1969 and 1999, administrative personnel in health care increased from 18.2% to 27.3% of the total U.S. health care work force, with administrative expenses totaling more than $294 billion (Campbell, Himmelstein & Woolhandler, 768). The U.S. Institute of Medicine estimates that by the year 2018, the cost of administration in health care will reach $315 billion. How will this affect the overall cost of health care?
Wasteful practices account for approximately one-third of total health care costs, says Cutler. The New York Times backs up Cutler’s claim, reporting that approximately 30 percent of spending in the health care system goes to unnecessary services, according to a report published by the Institute of Medicine in 2009. In the United States, we experience something that most other countries do not: medical overtreatment. Overtreatment includes unnecessary tests and procedures and medications that might be deemed unnecessary.
It is difficult to put a price tag on the cost of over-treatment in health care in the U.S., but Shannon Brownlee, expert on medical overtreatment and author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is making us Sicker and Poorer suggests that in 2012, between $210 billion and $900 billion were wasted on medical overtreatment (Schierhorn, 2013).
Although Americans live in a country where medical over-treating is a normal practice, we do not have the highest life expectancy. In fact, we are not even in the top 20 for life expectancy. As of 2013, the United States ranked 51 for life expectancy at birth, according to a report from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The bottom line is, it often times pays to be vigilant about your healthcare bills. It’s an awful feeling to have that you’ve been taken advantage of, but that doesn’t have to happen. Pursuing a fair and reasonable price for services rendered is your right and responsibility as a consumer. As always, Medical Recovery Services is here to decipher your medical bills and reduce costs.
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Campbell, Terry; Himmelstein, David U.; Woolhandler, Steffie. “Costs of Health Care Administration in the United States and Canada.” The New England Journal of Medicine 349.8 (2003): 8. Physicians for a National Health Program. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
Institute of Medicine (US) Roundtable on Evidence-Based Medicine; Yong PL, Saunders RS, Olsen LA, editors. The Health Care Imperative: Lowering Costs and Improving Outcomes: Workshop Series Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. 4, Excess Administrative Costs. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53942/
National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2012: With Special Feature on Emergency Care. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2013.
Schierhorn, Carolyn. “Author: Overtreatment the ‘Monster’ of Wastefulness Endemic to U.S. Health Care”. 3 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
“Waste in the Health Care System”. The New York Times. 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.