With the published list of 135 standard tests and procedures deemed unnecessary earlier this week, it is even more shocking to hear that hospitals tend to hike up medical bills significantly. According to a Time magazine study, researchers reported that non-profit hospitals can charge their patients over double the costs of a standard procedure. These alarming rates often go unquestioned because they are presumed to be legitimate and thus, patients feel forced to pay off their bill whether in one payment or in lengthly monthly payments.
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Time magazine cited several cases in which the prices were jacked up so much that many patients cannot simply pay out of pocket. The head investigator, Steven Brill, spent seven months trying to discover why medical bills are so unreasonably high at certain hospitals. Brill released a list called “Chargemaster,” that revealed what hospitals charged for different procedures, medicines, and tests. During his investigation, he discovered that one hospital was charging a 10,000 percent markup for a pain pill that can be bought over the counter.
Other pricey hospital bills included charging $157 for a blood test that bills Medicare for just $11 and charging $7,997 for a stress test that is only worth $554 when billed to Medicare. There appears to be no equation as to how these hospitals manage to name the prices for these procedures and it is hard to believe that the big discrepancy between two prices can even exist. According to some experts, the prices do not reflect the Medicare bills because the final hospital bill takes into account the amount of care it took to keep the patients satisfied during their hospital stay. These factors include paying nurses, doctors, and other hospital employees. On top of that, hospitals also tend to negotiate with patients which results in a smaller bill at the end. Whether or not these extra expenses really add up to these huge percent markups in prices may go unanswered.
Regardless, from the study, it would appear that these hospitals sure make a lot of profit.