There are plenty of policy papers out there on both sides of the health care reform issue, as well as plenty of nutjobs talking about death panels. But here is an anecdote from the front lines: I recently had a test done at California Pacific Medical Center, which is purportedly a non-profit hospital affiliated with Sutter Health, a collection of non-profit hospitals. CPMC is the only hospital in the northern half of San Francisco, and essentially has a monopoly on health care for a big chunk of the city. What do they do with their monopoly power? My breath test, which was run not by a doctor but by a young technician, and which took 90 minutes, was billed at $3,000. That’s right: $2,000 per hour was what they charged for their technician’s time and use of the machine. To compare, a top partner at a major corporate law firm I have used billed me at $650 per hour. This is why the current system is unsustainable. Insured individuals never see these bills, because their insurance pays it, so hospitals keep charging obscene rates. But for those of us who have to pay our own medical bills, we have no choice but to protest and fight back. Reforming the system is part of our fight.
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