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Recommended Reading

As I've probably made clear here, I think we have a real Health Care Crisis in this country — one that's bankrupting some people, killing others and even bankrupting and killing a certain number. If one armed man was doing a hundred-thousandth as much damage, we'd have every cop for miles around working overtime to stop him and bring him in. But we let the Health Care problem continue, at most applying small band-aids like "Obamacare." What I like best about Obamacare is that it does something, as opposed to every single one of the alternatives proposed which have all been to do nothing but pretend it's something. I also like that Obamacare opens the door to doing more.

Recently, a journalist I like named Steven Brill authored a 26,000 word article for Time that deals with the simple question of why everything costs so much when you go to a hospital. You may have seen him the other night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. If you didn't, watch the extended interview that was posted online. If you did see him, watch it also because so much more of interest is said in this version.

Here's a link to the entire article. It's long and I'm not suggesting you not read it. I will suggest you not read it until you have the time and stomach to be outraged about the situation. But I will quickly summarize it for you…

Hospitals charge so much because they and their suppliers want to make as much as possible and they know you have no choice but to come up with the money.

That's pretty much it. If you're brought in with a broken leg and it would cost them $500 to set it, they could charge you $500 or they could make a 100% profit and charge you a thousand. So they weigh the pros and cons of each alternative and then they decide to charge you $12,000 because they know you're stuck. It is also significant in Brill's piece to note how little of these windfall profits go to the actual doctors and nurses who treat patients. Most of it goes to super-well-compensated executives, drug companies or suppliers of medical equipment.

As I said, it'll make you mad. This is not about Free Enterprise and The Free Market. There can be no Free Market when you're carried in on a stretcher and the folks treating you can do whatever they feel proper to do to you and then hand you an inflated bill for it. For a market to be free, both buyer and seller have to have the power to opt out. No, this is all about gouging the ill and injured.