Putting health-care costs under the microscope

Pro Publica is publishing a useful series of articles examining the health-care industry in the USA – and how its ultimate “beneficiaries” are not us, the patients, but the companies raking in huge excess profits and violating our privacy.  A selection of the articles so far:

1.  Why Your Health Insurer Doesn’t Care About Your Big Bills.  Patients may think their insurers are fighting on their behalf for the best prices. But saving patients money is often not their top priority.

2.  Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates.  Without any public scrutiny, insurers and data brokers are predicting your health costs based on data about things like race, marital status, how much TV you watch, whether you pay your bills on time or even buy plus-size clothing.

3.  Your Medical Devices Are Not Keeping Your Health Data to Themselves.  CPAP units, heart monitors, blood glucose meters and lifestyle apps generate information that can be used in ways patients don’t necessarily expect. It can be sold for advertising or even shared with insurers, who may use it to deny reimbursement.

There are several other articles in the series, with more to come.  If medical costs are a concern to you (and they sure are to me!), they’re all worth reading.  Recommended.



  1. The health care industry… In 2004 the UN did a health care survey & list the nations by cost & quality, the USA came out on top of the cost (both per person & % of GDP). (The one & only time the UN did that survey). At the time the medical industry was costing 4% of the GDP and was down a good bit in the quality column.

    Since then Bloomberg has taken up the slack & been willing to publish the numbers. The last I saw the USA was #1 in cost at 17+% of GDP and well down the list (47) on quality of care. I'm not even going to get into the thousands of Americans who die every year because they cannot afford the product the health Care industry sells.

    IF you look at America as having an Education Industry, a Justice Industry, a Health Care industry and who knows how many more day to day public life functions turned into to profit making enterprises for someone. Well things around me, the "why" is easier to understand.

    To find the Health Care Industry collecting information on everyone is not a surprise. Knowledge is power, power is profit & control and there is a lot of that going on these days.

  2. It's a lucrative business model to accept money for health insurance, and deny anything that can be denied. It's almost all profit, with only some minor administration costs. Even if someone decides to use an attorney, they're a minority, and the insurance company's odds are still in their favor.

  3. The myth that we have some sort of market-driven medical industry in the country just won't die. We haven't had a free market in medical care for a long time – if ever. According to the World Health Organization, US per capita government spending on health care is the fourth highest in the world, behind only Norway, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. With the government having a practically infinite checkbook (they just create more debt out of thin air), it doesn't matter how much it costs, because the supply of money rises to meet the demand.

    With insurance structured as it is, buyer and seller (patient and provider) never negotiate or agree on prices. Providers don't post prices, so you can't shop around for the best value in a doctor, hospital, or whatever. Most patients don't care (or know for practical purposes) what it costs as long as the insurance pays for it. They never seem to equate the cost of their insurance premiums with part of the cost of the medical procedures.

    The same situation applies to education. College tuition rises at about 3 times the regularly cited cost of living. There are only so many seats in the colleges, and they can charge whatever they want because government guaranteed financial aid pays for it. Limited supply of seats, and the people paying for it demand those government loans. We can't ration or budget for college tuition, that would be hateful.

    In all cases the government's fiat currency and infinite checkbook combine to distort the economics. It's as predictable as the sunrise.

    As some wise guy said, if you think it's expensive now, wait til it's free.

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