Time cover article focuses on health care prices, including two CT hospitals

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Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us?, Time magazine’s latest cover story, is a fascinating look into medical prices – why they are so expensive and so unequal. The article includes a deep dive into several cases including Janice S at Stamford Hospital, and Emilia Gilbert from Bridgeport, part of the Yale New Haven health system. The extremely well-researched article details stunning, ten-fold higher prices charged to uninsured and marginally insured patients. The article describes “non-profit” hospitals making startling profits, paying eye-popping administrative salaries, and overtreatment driven by investments in shiny, new, expensive machines. Alternatively, Medicare’s system of determining what treatments actually cost, and paying only for services that make sense, is offered as a sensible option for expanding coverage. “Unless you are protected by Medicare, the health care market is not a market. It’s a crapshoot.” Uninsured patients were charged $3 for the marker used to identify the site of surgery on his back, $31 for the strap that held him onto the operating table, and $34 for a re-useable blanket — all charges that Medicare and insurers would not have paid at all. One Tylenol pill cost $1.50 and a tube of bacitracin cost $108 for uninsured patients. The article highlighted conflicts of interest in physician payments from drug companies and device manufacturers, and the complete absence of comparative effectiveness research – learning which treatments are worth what we pay for them and identifying equal or better, less costly alternatives. The article ends with commonsense, relatively easy solutions to reduce and equalize prices. But the authors acknowledge that the interests profiting handsomely from the status quo make the solutions unlikely.