This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
One of the deeper mysteries facing a patient who’s entered the bewildering labyrinth of the hospital world is why – after he’s discharged – those nice people send him a bill high enough to empty his 401k.
Then another bill comes: His insurance has paid an inexplicably low rate, and the hospital is inexplicably satisfied with it.
If he has insurance, that is. If he doesn’t, it may be time to look at that 401k.
The nation’s capricious and incomprehensively high hospital bills came under harsh light last week when the Department of Health and Human Services released a database showing what American hospitals charge for common inpatient services.
Try to compare one hospital’s bills against another and you quickly wind up in Wonderland.
According to HHS, inpatient charges for a joint replacement runs an average of $5,300 in Ada, Okla.; in Monterey Park, Calif., it’s $223,000. Bills can vary wildly even in the same area.
Typical inpatient treatment for heart failure costs from $21,000 to $46,000 at various Denver hospitals, for example.
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