Sick, Uninsured and Charged 10 Times the Cost of Hospital Care

Sick, Uninsured and Charged 10 Times the Cost of Hospital Care

By Millie Dent

A pack of for-profit hospitals are taking too many liberties with their for-profit names. A new study by Health Affairs found 50 hospitals in the U.S. have markups over 10 times the actual cost of care. The data was found using 2012 Medicare cost reports.

At the top of the list is North Okaloosa Medical Center, located about an hour outside of Pensacola, Fla. The hospital was found to charge uninsured patients 12.6 times the actual cost of patient care. A typical hospital charges 3.4 times the cost of patient care.  

The largest numbers of the hospitals on the list – 20 – are in Florida. Of the 50, 49 are for-profit and 46 are owned by for-profit hospital systems. One for-profit hospital system, Community Health Systems, owns and operates 25 of the hospitals on the list. Hospital Corporation of America operates 14 others.

Related: If SCOTUS Rule Against Obamacare, Health Care Costs Will Soar

Uninsured individuals are commonly asked to pay the full amount, unaware they are being scammed. The markups can lead to personal bankruptcy or the avoidance of necessary medical attention.

"The main causes of these extremely high markups are a lack of price transparency and negotiating power by uninsured patients, out-of network patients, casualty and workers' compensation insurers and even in-network insurers," the study reads. "Federal and state policymakers need to recognize the extent of hospital markups and consider policy solutions to contain them." 

Most astounding of all, these markups are not illegal. Maryland and West Virginia are the only states with laws limiting hospital fees.

Researchers offered solutions in the study, including limitations on the charge-to-cost ratio, mandated price disclosure to regulate the markups or some form of all-payer rate setting. 

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”