Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

Time Magazine published an article, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us”, by Steven Brill on Feb. 20, 2013 which focuses on the high cost of health care and its impact on people with a health crisis.

The article featured people like Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old man from Ohio diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma whose discount health insurance was not accepted at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The center wanted $48,900, paid in advance, to evaluate Recchi and develop a treatment plan.

Recchi borrowed the money from family, quickly worsened, and in another week borrowed an additional $35,000 from family to begin treatment. Recchi, though sweating, shaking, and in pain, was held in the reception area for an hour and a half as MD Anderson Cancer Center checked to verify that the $35,000 check had cleared. As the center could not verify the check, Recchi had to put a $7,500 payment on his credit card before receiving care.

The cost, in advance, to receive a treatment plan and begin care was $83,900, but an examination of the bill reveals an exorbitant markup for drugs and services by MD Anderson Cancer Center, a nonprofit connected with the University of Texas.

The article reported that one tablet of Tylenol cost Recchi $1.50, chest x-rays cost $283, while blood and lab tests exceeded $15,000. In contrast, Medicare bills for the same services, that are calculated to cover costs, overhead, equipment and salaries for providers, would have only been a few hundred dollars.

In 2010 Americans spent $8,233 per person on healthcare for a $2.6 trillion total according to the Los Angeles Times article, “Spending likely to remain high,” published on Sept. 8, 2012. This amount is 60 percent higher than any other country in the world, and the cost is expected to rise. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expect spending to reach $4.6 trillion by 2020, equaling 20 percent of the U.S. gross national product.

The Times article reports that Americans can help to control their healthcare costs by taking better care of themselves according to Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. “People do a lot of things themselves that they shouldn’t do that drive up costs,” said Darling. “The largest one historically has been smoking, but that’s now unfortunately been equaled by obesity.”

Chiropractic care has shown to save people money by decreasing hospital admissions by 60.2 percent, shortening hospital stays by 59 percent, reducing outpatient surgeries by 62 percent, and reducing pharmaceutical costs by 85 percent, according to a study published May 2007 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.

In this study, the utilization costs for medical care by patients also receiving chiropractic care were substantially below the utilization costs for patients only receiving medical care. “Chiropractic has always represented an alternative and cost-saving approach to expensive medical care,” said chiropractor and president of the Georgia Council of Chiropractic, Dr. Robert Braile.

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