Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Health and Human Services


Sticker shock for America’s hospital patients

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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Birth control coverage will be a boon for millions

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Contraceptive use in the United States is an issue fraught with irony.

The women who can least afford to get pregnant – including the young, the poor and the uneducated – often have the least access to effective birth control. They may not have health insurance, but even if they do, it might be subject to a deductible or co-pay. So they’re more likely to use cheaper, less effective methods like condoms – or nothing at all.

Little wonder the United States has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies in the industrialized world. Almost half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, and about 40 percent of those end in abortion. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program alone spend more than $12 billion a year providing maternity care for low-income women and care for infants in the first year of life. Read more »