Having Babies in America

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Writes Steve Black:

You blogged my comments comparing the cost of my son’s birth 3 years ago and the cost of a family vacation to Walt Disney World.

Now that I’ve had my second child (July 4th of all days!), I have a follow up.  I recently received all of my bills for the birth (which was a normal, vaginal birth with no complications) and the grand total came in excess of $16,000. I have to say that I had a hard time comprehending such an amount. The room fee alone was $2,900 a night! The hospital bill came in excess of $11,000 and we then received a separate bill from the OB/GYN in the amount of $4,000 (including antepartum care). This time around, though, we didn’t have my wife’s state-subsidized health insurance, so we were responsible for a considerable amount more than my son’s $150 co-pay.

What I found perplexing was how, when I looked at the itemized bills, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for insurance companies!! I’m sure they’re villains insofar as they collude with the state, but the real villains in healthcare are the subsidized, extremely overpriced hospitals and physicians.

UPDATE from Jeff Whetstone:

I just wanted to add another data point to Steve Black’s comments regarding the cost of having a baby. Our second child was born in June and I finally received all the bills…over $13000. Like Steve, we had zero complications and spent a grand total of 26 hours in the hospital.

UPDATE from Mark Hynes:

Steve Black has nailed it. I have had more experience with the hospital in the last few years than I should have and I’ve come to the same conclusion. On one occasion to the hospital, my girlfriend broke her back (it wasn’t serious she’s fine now, she broke a couple spinous processes) at my parents house falling off a horse so she went to the hospital. They did one set of x-rays decided that wasn’t clear enough, so took a cat scan. Then they cat scanned her again in the morning to make sure there was no upper back problems. Other than that she spent a night in the hospital and was given pain medication. The total bill came out to over 20,000, and they didn’t actually do anything to her except alleviate pain. Her insurance covered 80%, so I was responsible for $4200. This was notable for a few reasons. First, I thought everyone’s insurance should work like that, there is no way hospitals would get away with these outrageous prices if people were connected to them in some way. Second, If the doctors do a procedure that costs money (the first x-ray) they should not be charging for it if they then decide they need a better more expensive x-ray. How do they get away with that? Third, what is the price of a CAT scan machine? I’ve seen anywhere from 200K to 1.5 million. Even if we assume they cost 1.5 million, when they are charging over $3000 for each use they should be making up the cost of the machine within 500 uses. If they are doing 10 scans a day, and they probably do more than that, they should be making up the cost within 2 months. I’m sure these machines get used for a few years. It seems clear enough to me that a single scan is overpriced. If these guys were subject to any kind of market competition they wouldn’t be charging even ¼ of what they currently charge.

On another trip to the hospital , I was trying to get an endoscopy because my stomach had been (and still is) messed up for a few years and the doctors haven’t been able to explain why. My doctor treated me as if I was making the whole thing up, although after I fired him I looked through the medical notes and found out that he thought it was due to alcoholism. (which he never actually told me) I’m sure that was not the reason because I quit drinking for months, and it had no effect on my stomach positive or negative. Anyways, when I went for the endoscopy, I got sedated and woke up 30 minutes later to find out that they had not done the procedure. Apparently my throat wasn’t relaxed enough so they couldn’t get the camera down. They told me I had to make a new appointment and get anesthesia. I asked why they weren’t prepared to do it that day (while ripping off all the cables attached to me so I could leave and go on with my day). Why no contingency plan? It took me 5 months to get into that hospital from the day I to made my first appointment with a primary care Doctor which I had to do to get referred to a specialist. I was going to have to wait at least another couple months to get back in there. My insurance was charged $2500 for the Doctor not doing a procedure on me. I called the insurance company and tried to convince them not to pay (which I don’t think the woman had ever had happen before) but they wouldn’t stop payment. They wouldn’t even send me a breakdown of the charges. When I did try to schedule another appointment, they told me I had to go in for a consult before they’d do the procedure. So basically I took a step backwards. I really wanted to find out if my stomach looked as bad as it felt, so I had my doctor schedule a consult. When the endoscopy office called me to schedule it, the secretary asked when I was available for the colonoscopy I had been referred for? At that point I was so mad at my primary care doctor and the endoscopy office that I told them there was no way I was having any medical procedure done at their idiotic office, and then fired my doctor for referring me to such an incompetent group of people. Mass General Hospital is terrible. God help us all when more hospitals move toward their bureaucratic style of mismanagement because of the huge influx of patients that is inevitable now that Obama has pushed through his medical reforms…

11:31 am on August 13, 2010