THE SICK BILL

A COMPARISON OF TWO HOSPITAL BILLS SHOWS HOW COST-SHIFTING CAN KNEECAP CUSTOMERS.

Patient B was charged more than $750 for drugs shortly after her surgery. Mayo's bill does not specify which drugs were dispensed to Patient A; assume some overlap, although Mayo charged considerably less per injection and medication requirements vary widely from one individual to the next. Still, it's worth noting that Presbyterian/St. Luke's charged Patient B $437.72 for nine drugs that, if purchased from a pharmaceutical supply house, would cost about $55--and it's a safe bet that the hospital paid less than that. Figure that at least part of the markup relates to the labor cost of having a trained professional give the injection and the cost of the needle's disposal; figure, too, that the hospital's debt service and other costs far removed from Patient B's treatment may be shooting up the charge for her antibiotics and painkillers.

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