Insane American medical costs

I don't know what to make of the news item below at all. $15,897 for two X-rays sure sounds amazing. I have just phoned my local private Catholic hospital here in Brisbane and they quoted me $100 for such a service. An X-ray machine is just a big old-fashioned camera after all. Perhaps the story following the news item explains the American way. The story was in fact sent to me by an American medical specialist

A group of former patients of the California Hospital Medical Center on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit against Catholic Healthcare West alleging that the hospital chain overcharged uninsured patients and engaged in unfair business practices that violate California's consumer protection laws, the Los Angeles Times reports. Activist K.B. Forbes, head of the advocacy group Consejo de Latinos Unidos, organized the suit on behalf of three Latino plaintiffs. One patient stayed in the hospital for two days with gastritis and was charged $20,296.50, compared with $5,600 for the same medical care from an average private insurer and $3,994 for a Medicare beneficiary. Another patient was billed $15,897 for two X-rays of his shoulders, compared with $4,451 from a private insurer and $3,839 from Medicare (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 10/12). The suit aims to make CHW consider reforming its billing practices in California, Nevada and Arizona and reimburse the three patients, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Prengaman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/12).

"It's price gouging," Forbes said, adding that CHW should have informed the patients of available charity care and government assistance programs. Forbes said he wants CHW to implement standards similar to those of Tenet Healthcare, which was sued in 2003 by Consejo de Latinos Unidos. Tenet subsequently started offering uninsured patients discounted rates after the suit. Forbes said, "None of these people are looking for a free ride. They are looking for a fair rate." CHW officials did not comment on the suit, but they said the company already offers free and discounted rates to the uninsured and has helped many such patients obtain state and federal coverage (Los Angeles Times, 10/12). Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, called the lawsuit "unfounded," adding, "The allegation of price gouging is absurd" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/12).



A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a crew race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race. On the big day the Japanese won by a mile. Afterward, the American team became very discouraged and morally depressed. The American management decided the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A Management Team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and one person rowing.

So American management hired a consulting company and paid them an incredible amount of money. They advised that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. To prevent losing to the Japanese again next year, the American rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents, and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager. They also implemented a new performance and productivity system that would give the 1 person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the Rowing Team Quality First Program, with meetings, dinners, PowerPoint presentations, and free pens for the rower. Even new paddles and medical benefit incentives were promised for a winner. We must give the rower the empowerment and enrichments through this quality program. The next year the rower rowed as hard as he could, but the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor performance, hired a Mexican rower replacement, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all rower medical benefits. The money saved was distributed to the senior executives as a bonus.

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