The Deadly Realities of the U.S. Health-Care System

Spring 2008 CSANews Issue 66  |  Posted date : May 24, 2008.Back to list

In Cuba, the cost of an asthma puffer is five cents! In the U.S. health-care system, it costs $110.00! Michael Moore's movie "Sicko" is very entertaining and, unlike his earlier effort, appears to be much more truthful. The U.S. health-care system is indeed sick and very, very expensive.

As snowbirds, we are quite excited when talk turns to the U.S./Canada dollar exchange rates. We have watched our dollar increase in value by 45.08% since 2000 and our rent, our taxes, our food, our transportation and everything we buy, if we are U.S. snowbirds, costs substantially less.  The old "Canadian dollars at par" trick is now a ripoff. How times have changed!

But not that darned travel insurance; they must be ripping us off, too! Insurance premium rates have varied very little over the past number of years and this instinctively does not seem right. Before I start repeating myself, I would ask you to please look at our answer to Jim Wylie in the Bird Talk section. He asks a very simple, direct question and I have partially answered it with several of our initiatives over the recent past that have been helped by the strong Canadian dollar. This update is about the deadly facts with which we are dealing every day, when we deal with U.S. health-care providers.
First, some straight facts:

On May 1, 2000, Medipac's average daily cost of a hospital stay was a very pricey $8,077. By May 1, 2008, that hospital day was costing $12,997. Same hospital, same care, same procedures, but an enormous price increase of 60.91%

On May 1, 2000, Medipac's average out-patient visit to a doctor, including tests, was a not inexpensive $933. By May 1, 2007, that simple out-patient visit had increased to $1,829. Same services, same doctors, same facilities and an even more enormous price increase of 96.03%

Now let me revisit the dollar's increase; it was only up by 45.08%. Roughly speaking, the U.S. medical inflation was running at about double the speed and rate of the dollar's rise.

What Medipac did about it:

In approximately June of 2000, Medipac started hiring and training our own nurses. We have always had highly trained nurses answering our medical lines, but we felt that they needed more information about how foreign systems worked and, to a certain extent, how they built up their bills with unnecessary tests and in some cases, undone tests. When a doctor was going to perform an operation, he or she would sometimes call in all his or her friends to watch, and then everyone would merrily send us a bill for "assisting." Some of the hospitals began using "international billing companies" and paying them a percentage of the bills. Guess what? The bills got much higher to pay for the "billing company." We have bills coming from Switzerland and Sweden for services in a Florida hospital. Then the slimy lawyers would call with veiled threats if the bills were not paid NOW! (This, of course, was to give the bill payer no time to investigate the claim or, perhaps more importantly, to investigate the bill.) You have already heard of the Mexican bills in pesos that the California billing companies want to be paid in U.S. dollars. Parasites, all!!!

Did I mention the PPOs and the EPOs and the Discount Networks. These are middleman companies, for lack of a better word, that offer to get us a discount at certain hospitals if we promise to give them a "percentage of the savings," usually ranging from 15-30%. And some of them are very, very good. I know of several of these companies that have started over the years, and some are making millions of dollars every year on their "percentage." A dramatic example may help. A person is admitted to hospital with a heart attack and various complications (often diabetes). They spend 12 days being fixed and we get a bill for $400,000. If we have the right contract, which is rare, we get to settle this bill for $1,100 per day of hospitalization, or a mere $13,200! The savings amount to $386,800. The middleman, who basically did nothing gets, say, 20% of this amount for their services. The middleman therefore gets $77,360, or six times as much as the hospital received.

This is not a health-care system that we are discussing; it has nothing to do with doctors and nurses and patient care and disease prevention; it has to do with money! And I believe that it is going to blow up into a million pieces. So we trained our nurses and staff about money, and the way the system was built around money, and the ways to find the money tricks, and the ways to get to the right treatment without middlemen. This is an ongoing battle every day.

The upcoming U.S. elections in November will probably be the last attempt to fix this broken system in a rational manner, but I do not yet see anyone who has the courage to fix it properly. Apparently, 46 million Americans have no health insurance and I believe hat many of the remaining millions have poor health care through their HMOs and PPOs and the other assorted money trees. If you have the big bucks, I would urge you to get on a plane and go to some of the most famous and brilliant hospitals in the world. They can really do amazing things and they have leading-edge technology and lead the world in new medicine. But it is all about the money, not the care.

Until the middlemen are turfed and the fancy machines are available to everyone, Medipac will continue to ferret out the real care for our clients and duel with the parasites as best we can.

The early flowers are beautiful and the birds are everywhere; have a wonderful spring and summer. Welcome home.





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