AHCJ New York members gained a unique look this week into how journalist, author, and businessman Steven Brill researched and compiled his now-infamous 36-page Time Magazine article “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” The article took a hard look at the costs of hospital care in the United States – from the $70 box of gauze pads to a $50,000 up-front payment demand by one top cancer facility before doctors there would even evaluate a terminally ill patient.
That March 4 opus added fuel to an already contentious debate about the skyrocketing cost of U.S. health care. Brill emphasized the huge price discrepancies between what it costs hospitals and what they charge Medicare, private insurers, and direct-billed patients for identical care. “It was really a question of just doing some math,” he said.
Brill detailed his efforts to get satisfactory explanations from hospital CEOs about their multimillion dollar salaries while someone who had no health insurance was paying perhaps hundreds of dollars for a product that could be purchased in a local drugstore for pocket change. He explained how he obtained copies of actual hospital bills – for hundreds of thousand of dollars in some cases – and how he tracked down and analyzed the price differentials charged to public, private and non-insured patients. Continue reading