From Tyler: America’s Health Care: Heartburn for the Nation

tylerLast Friday, in the conclusion of our NBR series “The American Recovery: Challenges We Face,” we reported how the U.S. spends far more, in total, on health care than the next ten biggest-spending nations combined. We also spend far more per capita than any other nation, bar none. In all, one out of every six dollars the American economy generates – soon to be one out of five – traces to our medical/health-care complex.

This is why, writes Steven Brill in TIME, “Health care is eating away at our economy and our treasury.”

Tonight on NBR, Mr. Brill joins us to explore why American health care costs so much – and delivers so comparatively little in the way of better medical outcomes. He will be joined by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, himself a physician who, as a policymaker, actually bent the cost curve downward in his state.

I’m really looking forward to the conversation, in part because Steve Brill’s March 4 cover story in TIME is one of the most thought-provoking pieces I’ve read in years about health care. So much of the argument over it, he says, revolves around who should pay for it. He says that’s a head fake. The real discussion, he believes, should focus on why health care costs so much.

His reporting is remarkable. For instance, he points out that while we may be shocked by the $60 billion cost to repair the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, we will spend roughly that much this week on health care. Ever heard of a $21,000 case of heartburn? Steve Brill has. In deciphering hundreds of hospital bills, he found just such a case. It involved a Connecticut woman who felt chest pains, went to a hospital by ambulance, underwent three hours of tests and went home. The diagnosis: indigestion. The bill: $21,000, including $17,000 for the “non-profit” hospital.

There are dozens of other examples in Brill’s controversial piece, including 10,000% markups for acetaminophen and $7 apiece for gauze pads that sell online for $1.91 for a box of 200.

I urge you to read Brill’s piece, and I hope you will join Susie Gharib and me tonight on NBR.

-Tyler Mathisen

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