American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
April 26th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Shopping for cheap surgery

Editor's Note: Everybody loves a bargain, but is it really a good idea to shop for rock-bottom prices when it comes to medical care? With so much waste in our health care system and costs continuing to sky-rocket, some Americans are actually sniffing out cheap surgery deals overseas. Today in our original series "Prescription for Waste," senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen introduces us to one of them. Tomorrow on American Morning, you'll meet a doctor who was billed $863 for a pair of disposable forceps when she needed surgery.

Sound off: Share your health care horror stories with us. Post your comments below.

soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. jw

    In 2009, I had both knees replaced. The first surgery was in February, and the hospital (only) charges were roughly $55K. I had the 2nd surgery in June, just 4 months later, and the hospital chargers were over $100K. Ironically, I had MUCH better service with my first hospital stay.

    April 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  2. Pamela Gregory

    Ironic little story on shopping for cheap surgery. The silliest comment was made when the reporter stated you can sue your surgeon in the states but not in the other countries. Did you ever think that maybe the surgical cost might be related to the cost of the liability insurance of the surgeon?? Why not do a story on how much a surgeon, particularly an obstetrician has to pay for liability insurance. This cost is simply passed back on to the consumer. It is the law suits that have made the medical costs sky rocket.

    April 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  3. Shelly

    Medical care in the US caters to those who sue at the drop of a hat.
    One example is the person claiming to have recurring migraine headaches that only narcotics can cure, will threated litigation if the pain is not treated.
    Another is the uninsured meth addict who has literally ground his/her teeth to the pulp. This person shows up in the ED demanding narcotics to treat the toothache, claiming no dentist will treat him/her because he/she has no insurance.
    Many times the uninsured will present to an ED for non-urgent situations such as a pregnancy test that costs $1 at the local dollar store, or a strep test that could be performed for a fraction of the cost with a simple Dr. Visit.
    These people sue, and win, claiming "failure to treat". Who gets stuck with the bill?
    Many of these people are refused by a Primary Care Physician (PCP) because of failure to pay at the office. So they run to the local ED, requesting, often demanding, treatment that time could more benefically be afforded to the more urgent cases and lessen wait time.
    These services have to be paid for somehow, and so does the liability insurance for each facility and each person working in these facilities.

    April 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  4. SP

    I'm an American living in the Czech Republic for over 10 years now. I recently had an experience here that pretty much has cemented my faith in European healthcare systems.

    My girlfriend was submitted to ICU for an attempted suicide from a mix of alcohol and pills. After spending two days there to have her stomach pumped, she was submitted to a well known psychiatric hospital where she's been for 5 weeks to undergo a full psychiatric examination, including CT scan, Electroencephalogram, daily screenings, weekly sessions with a psychologist and daily meds. She was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder and had an acute case of endogenous depression. After being placed on a treatment plan that includes mood stabilzers and a temporary treatment of setralin (Zoloft) she is now making a full recovery.

    The lead doctors at both the ICU and the psychiatric hospitals were not only experienced at what they did, but they were kind and very empathetic. I was impressed with the quality of care my girlfriend has received. Although the facilities aren't the most modern (to be fair the ICU certainly was), I cannot complain.

    Total cost for her treatment, including ICU and 5 weeks at psychiatric hospital: 1,900 Czech crowns... just under $100 US.

    We have universal healthcare in the Czech Republic which all employees pay into. It is mandatory for all registered employees to carry healthcare. The employee pays 4.5% of his/her salary into the system, no matter what your income is. The employer must double that contribution. The point is that it certainly isn't free, but I've had to make use of the system, although for much less serious cases, and paid nothing out of pocket.

    Universal healthcare is a great thing. I can only hope that the US, my home country, will one day have such a system.

    April 26, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  5. John

    What Ellie Iglesias doesn't realize is that the Uk has two health services running side by side: The National Health Service and a Private Health Service. If you are paying for private healthcare you do not have to wait any time at all for surgery or treatment. If you choose to be treated under the national health service treatment is free. You may have to wait for a few months for surgery for a non life threatening situation. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer 5 yars ago and the operation to treat the condition was undertaken immediately. NO cost, NO delay

    April 26, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  6. pat

    i wonder how many people know that google no longer allow foriegn drug companys inc canada to advertise their web site on google

    April 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  7. Sal

    Kelly– I had surgery in a hospital that was in-network, by a surgeon that was in-network. My insurance isn't that great - my out-of-pocket per year is $4,000, but I expected that. What I didn't expect was a bill from an assistant surgeon who I had never heard of, who was *out of network* and his bill amounted to almost $5,000. My insurance company basically said it was too bad, they followed the rules, it wasn't their fault, and they weren't going to pay anything on it. So who's fault *is* is? I certainly had no control over it, being unconscious at the time.

    April 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  8. steve lewallen

    my wife was having third series of shots to relieve pain from herniated disc at local state of the art hospital in ky.... doctor ordered urine test to check for drugs...(wife is 66 yrs old) instead of having the hospital run the test ,...they sent it to ind lab in texas...the bill was 500.00 for simple urine test......

    April 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  9. Kan

    My wife was prescribed a skin lotion by the Doctor to take care of some skin allergy. We went to CVS and it cost us $170, then realized immediately to get that from india. Fortunately, we could return it. Then, I called a friend(Neuro Surgeon) in india and faxed him the description we got from CVS. He got us equivalent generic medicine for Rs 28 (i.e. for 60 cents).

    April 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  10. Mad in NJ

    I am in the process of filing and appeal against a claim from a hospital for the amount of days I was admitted.

    I was told by 2 different people on the next morning after being admitted (4-8-2010) that a specialist was going to come
    in and talk to me about possibly getting some tests done. This was supposed to be around 8am on 4/9/2010. No one
    showed up, I kept asking the nurses when this mystery person was going to show up, no one could give me an answer.

    Then finally around 12 noon, someone came in and said the person had already left the building for the day and would return the next morning and that they would like to hold me till the next morning, even though i was strongly against it.

    Well, that person never showed up AGAIN on 4/10/2010 and around 9:30am, a person came in with discharge papers and said they had decided to let me go. I asked where this person was, again no one could give me a straight answer. I even told the person who had the discharge forms how they could keep me for an extra day for absolutely no reason, and she said, believe it or not, they do it all the time.

    The part I am arguing is, why should i have to pay for that extra day I was there, basically all i did was sit in a bed and watch TV all day a with no interaction from any nurses or specialists, ( i even had to ask if i was gong to be getting lunch or dinner since I didn't know when was going to be in the room)

    There were no test or anything completed, it's almost as if they figured they could keep me another day just to fill the bed and bill the insurance company for it, which now at this point, my Health Fund has dried up and now it is all coming out of my pocket. I had mentioned all of this to my Aetna appointed advocate over the phone, but i just received the EOB this morning for all of these charges and I plan on fighting at least that third day they are trying to charge me with.

    After leaving the hospital, I had returned to my family doctor that same day for an emergency appointment and they scheduled me to go to a neurologist and they want me to get all kinds of blood work and 2 more MRI and MRA scans and return for follow-up appointments. As of today (4-26-2010), the only thing I have done so far was the family doctor
    appointment and the Neurologist appointment since being released from the hospital. As of today or tomorrow , I am going to cancel all the rest of my appointments and not get anything else as far as scans
    and bloodwork done, because I cannot afford to pay for all of these things out of my pocket.

    From today on, i think the only time i would EVER consider going to a hospital again is if i were literally dying or my wife or child were hurt or injured, and even then, I will NEVER return to that hospital again, and I am not the only person that has said that, there are people I talked to after being released and coming back to work and they also said they had horrible experiences with that particular hospital and the staff there.

    April 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  11. beware

    Friend went to Mexico where gastric bypass was 1/2 the cost. He has been in intensive care for the last month and a half back here with severe complications. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not.

    April 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  12. To "A NURSE"

    "Radiologists who charge hundreds of dollars to interpret your x-rays ... not so much." Check your facts there, nurse. Those "x-rays" are the blueprint for treatment and it takes a lot of training and time to "interpret" them. Most of the charges go to pay for the equipment used to get the "x-rays", not to the doctors.

    Your comment is like saying that nurses get paid way too much to be Doctor's servants and bed assistants to patients. False and benighted. Stop spreading mis-information.

    April 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  13. Kevin Malone

    I am covered under my employers insurance plan at a cost of $60 monthly via payroll deduction. The cost of the family plan or an option to cover my wife and I is $525 monthly. We looked at getting my wife a seperate individual policy thru BCBS at a cost of $200 monthly. She was turned down by BCBS. What BCBS does not realize is that they would be forced to cover her if I chose the family plan at work. So why in one instance is she turned down, but in another instance the same insurer will ultimately end of covering her.

    Another issue I have is life insurance. I have a policy with John Hancock. We wanted to increase the coverage amount but I was turned down based on the fact that I had a stent inserted in one artery. So I had a procedure done to save my life and prevent the insurer from paying out the benefits of the policy if I had died as a result of not having this done and yet I am still turned down.

    Health care reform is not forcing people to get insurance, health care reform is forcing the insurers to change how they do business. Our politicians just don't seem to get this aspect!!!

    April 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  14. Mrs. M.

    $10,000 for a cat bite. Treatment included daily whirlpools and a pregnancy test even though I had a tubal over 20 years ago. Last straw was they were going to ultrasound the bite, after several days of IV antibiotics and a good response to them. Have basically had most of my body ultrasounded by these doctors at this hospital whether I had a complaint in that spot or not. Drive 60 miles now for sane health care.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  15. Dalan

    When my wife was sick with Cancer, every hospital bill we got had errors, ranging from $100 to $4000. One doctors office had over $2200 in over billing. One of the billing people at the hospital said. " only a $100 just pay it.". My reply, "... its only a $100 just waive it." Not that I am complaining, but even with really good insurance my out of pocket expenses were nearly $10,000 that year. One 18 day stay in the hospital and seeing the care that she got was worth every penny that was spent ($35,000 room, not including doctors fees and surgery costs).

    April 26, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  16. Manfred

    My brother is a dentist and and dental implant specialist. He studied in the UK, interned in Germany, where we are from and did further education in the US. He, and I, now lives and has a dental practice in the Caribbean. over 40% of his patients are from overseas, meaning the US or Europe.

    I have in the course of my travels, trade fairs, etc, met many doctors, American and US trained, who work outside of the US because they cannot make a living back home or because they find that the insurance companies essentially force them to prescribe certain procedures or medications that the patient does not need or has to have because their insurance will not cover the more expensive procedure.

    The usual procedure for someone who flies in for implants is – fly in, check into the hotel. Next morning turn up at the practice. Get checked out, depending what is needed/wanted, either stay and get it done right there and then or wait a day or two for blood work, etc. Once the procedure is done, back to the hotel to recover and relax. Stay here for a bout a 7-10 days coming in every couple of days for a check up. Then fly home. If the procedure is a large one, they might have to come back after 4 – 6 months for the final part. With large procedures there is always a anaesthesiologist, US trained doctor, in the surgery with him.

    My brother has been doing this for almost 10 years. In that entire time, he has not had a bad failures. There have been implants that fail however these are replaced at no cost to the patient.

    His friends in the US who want to offer the same service, don't because of fears of being sued. One dentist friend who offers crown and bridge work, for post implant procedures, pays US$500 000,- on malpractice insurance per year.

    So on one side you have the pharmaceutical companies who are over charging on their products on the other you have the insurance companies who want to make huge profits by offering only the cheapest of procedures and hiking the premiums of their customers, and smack dab in front of the doctors and dentists you have the patients with their lawyers ready to sue them the first chance they get.

    No wonder some of the best doctors and dentists I have met live and work abroad, like the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Middle East, India even South-East Asia places like Australia and Singapore.

    My brother could work in the US but why bother. He does what he loves, no worries about being constantly sued and he doesn't have to fight the insurance companies all the time, all that = no stress = good life.

    I would like to see a report as to why some hospitals have as many admin staff as there doctors and nurses employed there.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  17. Steve

    I have worked in other countries for many years. Foreign Service employees and seasoned short term consultants invariably get their routine dental dental work done and go to the opticians when they are abroad, and the American Embassy health units have lists of recommended local doctors. However, some countries are waking up to the fact that we are milking their health care systems. A couple of years ago in Vietnam, I had laser surgery to remove an itchy wart from my lower neck. I had to pay $12 because I was a foreigner, instead of the standard $4 that a Vietnamese would have been charged. I realized that they are onto us!

    April 26, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  18. Regent Motu

    The problem with healthcare in U.S. is that the doctors and such are overly glorified..look at all the dumb medical television shows and movies. Health care needs to be gutted here. Doctors need to go back to being paid with chickens and eggs. Bunch of hoes! And insurance companies need to be criminalised. You see doctors and insurance executives driving around in porsches and such living in big mansions and running all those little money raking stock funds. This U.S.A. needs a pole shoved up its ass!!! I'm expatriating as soon as possible. Tax, tax, tax, and more tax!!! For what? NOTHING but a bunch of crooked self-serving leaders helping themselves to everything they can grab!!! OUTLAW INCUMBANCY. TAKE THE FUTURE OUT OF POLITICS!!!!!

    April 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  19. Anita Beckwith

    I'm 55 and self-employed. My huband is 60 and works for a small business that offers health insurance but only at 100% cost to employees. Our insurance premiums under this group has increased to $300 per week or $15,400 per year. And still, this insurance will only cover 50% of certain charges. We estimate that we will pay $20,000 this year for insurance coverage. We both have pre-existing conditions and he is facing a lay-off. His employer employs fewer than 20 workers and therefore, is not required to offer us cobra benefits. We're considering moving to Canada permanently. When faced with health care in America which continually degrades, any other country that has enough respect for it's citizens to provide them affordable health care looks pretty good. And for those that wish us "good riddance" I hope you never have to walk in my shoes.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  20. jacksonscott

    yes, prices in the USA are out of control. I have been living in Argentina for 4 years now, and its amazing how much the difference is. The quality of the doctors is good too, there may be a lower quality in accomodations, such as not getting your private room, or not having a big screen TV in the waiting area, but as far as the medical care goes, its good quality and WAY cheap compared to the states.. I am having a fairly minor laproscopic surgery for 125 dollars... where in the states can you be operated on for 125 dollars?

    April 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  21. Adrian Snare

    Sandra S, the patient only cares about his bottom line.. Not about who gets what and how much.....
    IMO, the patient should care a lot more about the important details...
    But the fact remains, in Australia, the cost is less., and this is what we need to work on...
    Maybe we should adopt the entire Australian health care system, lock stock, and barrow.
    And, all people should pay the same, American or a Frenchman or an Austrailian....
    Fairness and equality ??

    April 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  22. linda prinzivalli

    Watching CNN health news today, my heart went out to the young man from Brooklyn with Crohn's disease.
    The point of the story was he is one of so many falling through the cracks because he is without healthcare.
    I would like to somehow let this young man know that my son also has this ailment, and has suffered sometimes near-death attacks.
    Although he was fortunate to have health coverage when hospitalization was required, it is not always the best course of treatment.
    Diet and the use of probiotics has changed my son's life. After being perscribed predisone and other very harmful meds that only offered temporary, if any help he found some alternative help.
    Probiotics (which are homeostatic soil organisms) are readily available in most healthfood stores.
    Some food to be avoided that trigger the attacks are refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, processed oils, cow milk products (goat is more easily digestable), tomato sause, etc.
    I recommend reading "Patient Heal Thyself" by Jordon S. Rubin for more helpful hints.
    I know this was not the point of the feature, but as a mother,I would really like to have this young man get this helpful information.
    I agree we should all have health care coverage.
    I also think we have to be aware of the benefits of alternative, or combine treatments., and take resposibilty for our own health as well.
    I have seen my son so very ill, and then benefit greatly, so I just want to share this information.
    Linda Prinzivalli

    April 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  23. Doc

    I am an orthopaedic surgeon; I think it is excellent that CNN is exploring areas for cost control. However, these reports should break down where surgical expenses come from. To simply report that a procedure through a surgeon's office costs $33,000 implies that the majority of money goes to the surgeon, which is absolutely not the case, and inspires notions about "greedy doctors." (Similar to Obama's grossly incorrect comment about a surgeon being paid thousands of dollars to amputate a limb; I voted for him and support health care reform, but his comment was unbased and an insult to surgeons.)

    Surgeons are paid well, no doubt, but a surgeon's compensation, based on procedure code(s) is typically reasonable to most people.

    For instance, the surgeon's compensation for a total knee replacement in my state at 100% Medicare rate is $1417.39, and the surgeon is assuming all post-operative care and all liability for the surgery.

    Other areas for cost control also need to be considered: take a case where a sales rep. for a joint replacement or other surgical implant makes more money for a surgery than the surgeon: this actually happens. Hospital fees, anesthesia costs, etc. also all factor in...

    April 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  24. Eric

    You think things are bad now ... just wait until Obama care goes into effect!!!!! It might be expensive but at least it's available. The New England Journal of Medicine (The most respected medical journal in the world) predicts that between 33% and 42% of doctors will quit their practice because of how bad this new plan is!!! You'll have to wait 9 months just to see someone for a routine visit ... forget about emergency care, I guess you'll just have to die because there will be no one to give you the care you need!!!!

    The answer here is real easy ... it's the legal system. America is the most sue happy place on the planet by far. If we control the lawyers with their rediculous costs and unwarrented law suits then our health care would cost less than 1/3 of what it does today!

    April 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  25. Timothy Earl

    March of 2007 I started a new job with full family coverage in insurance benefits. Three months later my wife took my daughter to the family physician for a sinus infection. The insurance claim was denied as a "pre-existing condition". After validating the claim was filed correctly my only option was to file a grievance with the insurance company. The grievance was denied. I filed a complaint with the state (Kansas) which went unheard. I have at minimum 6 of these exact stories within the past 4 years. I would like to see at least some state or federal involvement in these grievances.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  26. Brian in NJ

    My son had surgery to correct a problem with his urethra, and he now has to self-catheterize twice daily for one year. We bought the first few catheters ourselves at a pharmaceutical supply near our house, and they cost approx $5.00 each. The insurance company will pay for catheters as "durable medical supplies", but we have to get them only from an approved mail-order company in Georgia. Well, they cost $11.00 each! Same exact brand and model. Since we have a cap on durable medical supplies, I called our insurance company and asked if I could get them locally and reimburse – they said no. So, the insurance company is spending 22/day ($660/mo) instead of 10/day (300/mo). And the funniest part was the phone rep at the insurance company said I had to buy them from the mail-order outfit because they got "bulk discounts". Yup, our system makes loads of sense all right...... Now, what can I find to sell to this insurance company at a discount??!!

    April 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  27. Mary Beth

    My ex brother in law was the CEO of a medium size hospital in Illinois. The hospital board gave him a brand NEW car, every other year. They also paid his Country Club dues along with a salary of $100,000 yearly. That was in 1979 !!! THAT is where all the money is going !!!

    April 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  28. hank jennings

    My Story- A few tears back, after pulling four or five infected teeth, I was told by three dentists that it will cost me direct out of pocket about $36,000 for implant replacement on these teeth. I was speechless, I went on a shopping comparison spree, the best I could get was $35,000 for the same operation and I could put the upfront expense on a revolving credit plan. I started to look overseas to India, China, Thailand and Indonesia. I was able to land some very reasonable quotation in Mexico for about $6,000.00 all expenses and travel included. What a life.
    You tell me if this is worth it- a saving of $30,000.00. Thank God for that little miracle work.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  29. greg in Philly

    I get my prostate meds from and save a bundle. I have health insurance in the US but the pharma company they use, Medco, charges 1.5X what I pay in Canada.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  30. Helen

    Our Medical System is Broken. My son is in college & has student insurance. 2 years ago he injured his arm & had trouble moving his arm at the elbow. The college nurse sent him to a local hospital emergency room. They xrayed him and said nothing was wrong, gave him a soft fabric sling and told him to see an orthopedist. He tried making an appointment with the recommended doctor and they never returned his calls for 2 weeks. We know an acumpuncturist who charges $35 a visit and went to him. In 5 seconds he diagnosed and fixed the problem – a displaced tendon. Absolutely fine after. We then got a bill from the hospital for the emergency room visit $3300 plus $300 for the doctor who saw him at the hospital and $100 for the xray. We had to pay the doctor, and after the student insurance paid the hospital we still got a bill for $800. Although they did nothing but xray & couldn't even diagnose the problem they said $3300 was the cost to use the emergency room. I agreed to pay half ($400) and they took it right away. They overcharge uninsured people by 10 times what should be charged.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  31. Patricia from Boston

    You keep going on and on about India and Costa Rica and the cost of sponges and aspirin. Why don't you take a minute and do some real investigative reporting rather than "fluff" reporting on this serious issue.

    Today you kept talking about India and the cost of prodedures in that country.
    According to , the highest salary of an experienced registered nurse is 300,000 rupees or around $6,800, the average salary is around $5000. This is a salary that RN's in the US were making 50 years ago. Today in Boston, the average RN salary is $80,000 plus benefits, with experienced nurses making even more.

    It is easy to hold up a bandaid or an antibiotic and say it was charged at some outrageous rate. Makes for great television moments. It is also fun to talk about how little it costs to have a total hip in Mumbai. But then you just stop the discussion like we're all stupid and can't see you are only being theatrical for the purpose of creating an avalanche of "tweets" and facebook postings.

    The real cost of healthcare, like the automobile industry is labor. It is a highly labor intensive industry. I am a master's prepared RN. Stop just being theatrical and waving bandages in the air. Talk about the 14.3 million healthcare workers and what will/should happen to them. You keep ignoring the fact that the healthcare industry employs more people in the US than any other industry. It doesn't just "take" from reporters (and others) receiving care, it provides trillions of dollars in salaries to nurses, lab techs and support people who put that money back into the community.

    Health care costs need to be addressed, but this silliness of waving bandages in the air on CNN has got to stop. To control costs, hospitals have to close and patient demand/expectation has controlled IN ADDITION to the cost of supplies and medical equipement/tests.

    Of course, that debate is a hard one and isn't as entertaining. You will have communities up in arms that their hospital is closing. You will have patients furious that they can't have an MRI for six weeks. You will have unions appropriately fighting decreases in staffing, and of course, then there are the lawyers.........

    April 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  32. Kerry E

    I teach in South Korea and all the large university hospitals and doctors are on par with anything you will find in the US (maybe not the Mayo Clinic but close enough). It's super cheap compared to the states, same as the cost of going to the dentist here (yes they are about 2 years behind America in the dental field but no big deal to save thousands on having implants)

    April 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  33. Sandy

    I have a bum knee and will need knee replacements, but several doctors have said I need to wait until I am older. My doctor was giving me monthly shots to ease the pain until my insurance company informed me that this procedure is considered invasive and therefore is a surgical procedure. This baffled me, because the entire process, from walking into the office to walking out with the tiny band aid on my knee takes about 15 minutes. When I get other shots they aren't considered surgery, but all my insurance company said by way of explanation is that this shot is a surgical procedure.
    I'm looking for a doctor now who will replace my knee at my age. I'd rather pay the higher surgical deductable for a true surgical procedur

    April 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  34. Donald Fajemisin

    I know many people with similar stories. My only question is for Mr Davies. Does he live in Sen Lugar's district? If he does, can he understand Senator Lugar's opposition to the health care reform?

    Instead of playing politics in the Senate, I think our lawmakers should be working to make life easier for us, their constituents and their real bosses (not those giving them campaign cash)!!!!!

    April 26, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  35. CK

    My son received a severe brain injury when he was 18 years old. He was on Medicaid. Which, all in all, was really great until he turned 21. He was learning to walk again and because of a date on a calendar (his 21st birthday), all therapies stopped. Although Medicaid does have therapy after 21, its like $1,500 a year which is like 12 therapy sessions. My son was so close to relearn to walk and now for the rest of his life he will be in a wheel chair and Medicaid will have to pay for that but they couldn't pay for the necessary therapies when it was the most advantages.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  36. Thomas Troost

    As an ENT surgeon I would typically get paid $2500-3000 for a large, somwhat complicated nasal polyps surgery that takes 2 hours. The anesthesiologist would get possibly another $1000-1500 for his time. Where are the remaining $ going? All to the hospital? How much more will it cost the traveling patient having this surgery if there is a complication such as eye injury or leakage of brain fluid? Fortunately those conplications are rare, but there are others that require healing time and careful monitoring to recover so staying in a hotel far from home for additional weeks can begin to add up. I guess everyone has their own risk to cost ratio that they are comfortable with . I agree that paying over $30k for this surgery is absurd but it should have been available for well under half that.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  37. Lance McKinzie

    I moved from California to Kentucky which necessitated moving my health insurance from Kaiser to UHC. With Kaiser, care was fine and I never saw a bill...$15 copay at the window...that was it. Regular perscriptions came in the copay. UHC, in contrast, is a nightmare. I made a trip to the innetwork emergency room and later found I had to pay the doctor because he was NOT innetwork. I visited an innetwork doctor at an innetwork clinic and later discovered I had to pay $900 worth of lab work because the labs were NOT innetwork. I found its far cheaper to use the Walmart pharmacy without useing the UHC insurance...$16 for 100 generic pills verse $20 copay using UHC for 30 or the same pills...UHC limits to 30 day supply so 3+ trips are required. UHC is sufficeint reason for nationalizing the health care system.

    Kaiser, and similarly the regional Minnesota system operated by Mayo Clinic, have efficient, cost effective solutions...far lower costs than the average US. They are doing this today. Therefore we have a solution to health care problems. We simply need to ask those groups to expand nation wide.

    April 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  38. Adrian Snare

    Doctors must be well paid and their training must be subsidized by our government.
    This will upset the Party of No.
    Its not the way of insurance companies to be open and honest, they exist only to "make" money......
    This they do very well, from peoples misery.
    True health care reform will be that , that causes the world's wealthy to come here for care.. and causes care to be affordable by all...

    April 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  39. Peter Mylle

    Sorry for that, a dental check up costs about 50 € and is fully refunded for children under 12 ! You can have insurance but it pays for the part you have to pay yourselve, for the breastcancer cirq. 1500 €.
    The health care system is a public system, but with private incentives (not like in the UK) so you can chose your doctor and you go directly to him. Even specialists can be visited on a direct basis !
    So we are very happy, that we do not live in the states...

    April 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  40. msm

    My sister in law just finished treatment for a very serious cancer. She had a stem cell transplant. After the transplant they put her in the hospital for "observation" to keep her isolated from pathogens while her immune system recovered. IE no treatments, just isolation, observation. Cost: 9 days, $70,000.
    There is no correlation between services rendered and actual costs in this country. Some treatments are just open for over billing to make up for other areas. It's the $300 hammer syndrome the military complex had/has all over again.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  41. Kerry

    your individual stories are basically a poll of 1 and severly skewed.
    you get what you pay for people.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  42. John G.

    How about $2,700 for 20 minutes and seven stitches in the ER for a cut finger? How about $3,000 for a 20-minute colonoscopy? How about $4,200 for an hour looking for a "kidney stone" that wasn't? The whole healthcare/insurance system in the US is a scam...

    April 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  43. Kerry

    ok yeah right. someone is going to pay health insurance...not file a claim and go to another country to wait in lines and pay out of pocket for procedures. what a lie of an article.
    I personally know people who do the exact opposite.
    freedome of speech is wonderful but reportiong a lie as fact is wrong

    April 26, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  44. Peter Mylle

    When my wife contracted breast cancer, whe were lucky we did not live in the USA. In Belgium the total cost was 1500 € for the whole lot (Surgery, chemo, radiation, staying in the hospital, fysio, etc...) meaning duration of the treatment and all of the treatment, the hospitals are off the best in Europe and there are NO WAITING LISTS because healthcare is public but with a private incentive.
    If there would be a

    April 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  45. bduce

    I was recently hospitalized and spent about 12 hours in the critical care emergency room. The cost for the emergency room with tests was $11,636. The cost for the 4 day stay was $9800 and the cost for an endoscopy was $9800 for 3 hours I was in for that procedure. This HRC does not address the root of the issue and won't. If costs were reasonable coverage would be secondary. Providing coverage for hugely over priced medical care only feeds an out of control cost system. MA passed socialized medicine law and only 15% of the eligible people took advantage of it and the plan cost 4 billion dollars so far. That failed and so will the federal plan. No one wants to meddle with drug and patient coverage costs except the insurers who up the premiums to continue covering ballooning costs. The insurers also dictate what care they will pay for and what drugs you can get. They are protected by congress and there is no appeal with these crooks. Obama totally missed the mark as he did with the rest of decisions.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  46. A Nurse

    I work in a small hospital and see firsthand why health care costs in America are out of control. The fault lies on all sides of the equation. We have to treat everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. This includes the junkies who walk in demanding narcotics for "excruciating pain" and threatening to sue if they don't get it. Keep in mind that they will also receive a dozen tests while we try to find out if something is really wrong with them.

    America is a very litigious society. An ER patient may need an antacid, but we have to run a bunch of tests to prove we checked them for a heart attack. Hospitals fear going under and so more unnecessary admissions happen and more needless tests get run and billed for. I've seen hospital stays extended over the weekend simply because a family didn't want to take Grandma home just yet. And did you know that acute rehab facilities force a person to have a 3-day hospital stay before they can qualify for rehab services?

    Then, of course, there are the mahogany board rooms and marble lobbies that make hospitals look like they know what they're doing. Americans demand fancy ... it's all about marketing.

    Some doctors are definitely overpaid. Doctors who own their own practice have no lives or free time, so they deserve every penny. Radiologists who charge hundreds of dollars to interpret your x-rays ... not so much.

    The system is broken all around ... but when it comes down to your own personal heart attack or your loved one's massive stroke, each and every one of us will expect the best treatment regardless of what it costs or who pays for it.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  47. Chris

    For everyone of you entitlement whiners that has a horror story there are 10,000 non-whiners that don't. Our healthcare system is great. Quit giving out free healthcare and quit letting lawsuits run rampant and costs will come down. And why is the dude who needed the nose surgery so surprised at the cost. That's why insurance exists. Duh.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  48. Dave

    Consider what is billed to patients by hospitals & doctors and what is paid by insurance as "reasonable and customary". I was billed $47,000 for services that insurance paid only $7000 (which was accepted as paid in full) non-insured would be charged the 47K.
    If US medical charges for services were standard and reasonable across the board we could maybe get rid of these outrageous fees, maybe even eliminate some of the insurance companies and BS.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  49. Leo

    To Mary Wells - yes, the US has some of the best medical care in the world. BUT, the point of this article was not that there is better medical care elsewhere but that it is ridiculously expensive here in the US and there are many other countries with excellent healthcare systems. AOur high costs are partly why healthcare insurance is so expensive. I am self-employed and pay 1,400 / month for healthcare insurance for a family of 4. I have a pre-exisiting condition ... minor symptoms, but a pre-existing condition. The INS co. knows I can't go anywhere else for insurance so my monthly premium has gone from $600/mo to $1,400/mo in 7 years and I am no less healthier today than 7 years ago. At this rate, my monthly insurance premiums in another 7 years will be over $3,000/mo which point I would have to consider not being covered at all. And my insurance company would be more than happy to let me drop. In the meantime, they would have made on average about $20,000 a year in insurance premiums from me over the course of 15 years. Do I blame the insurance industry? Yes somewhat because they have the right to reject my insurance applications over and over again because of a pre-existing condition..... but the high cost of medical care is equally to blame.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  50. njm

    I just got my notice that our family health insurance, with a $7500 deductible, went up 28.5% in one year!! And... the insurance company has never had to pay a dime of our expenses. We have never billed over our deductible.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
  51. disappointed in Ireland

    I have a family member in Ireland, under the "cheaper system" and I would rather have to sell my house and go into debt and be treated here than to leave my life in the hands of that govt system. Waiting lists, ignored care for seniors, lack of equipment. No wonder it's cheap!

    April 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
  52. Mazen Elsaleh

    I had an accident 5 yrs ago when I was 27. My accident was not of a big deal. I broke hip and minor injury in the back. All what I needed is physical therapy, I could not afford it, I ignore it. Now I am walking my back is bending my leg is weak after 5 yrs. I hope I can afford to buy health insurance one day

    April 26, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
  53. Brian

    @Kumar. Your response is intellectually lazy. If it's such a fabuous job, why don't you go to school for 25 years, pay 150K per year in malpractice, meet payroll for a staff of employees, deal with medicare and insurance companies. The system can be improved, but blaming it on rich doctors? Imagine saying that to your doctor's face...could you envision defending your argument? Class warfare is like road-rage: cathartic, cowardly and indenfnsible.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  54. Utah Uninsured

    I paid for private insurance for 20 years. In December I was told that my insurance, for which I was paying 1,100 per month, was no longer valid out-of-state. I spend a lot of time out of state. Now 62, with a previous heart problem, no one else will insure me. I dropped my insurance, qualified for care at the VA, and hope if I am in need of care I can make it to a VA facility.

    The medical system in the US is broken. The UK, France, etc. have excellent medical care and pay half what we do.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  55. Guy D

    I have hip osteoarthritis and have been exploring the costs of the hip resurfacing procedure in the US. The best deal I could find is with a leading practitioner who has an "all in" pre-paid cash deal at $26k. I have not been able to get a true full cost estimate from any of the others I have contacted because the surgeon, anesthesiologist and hospital all charge separately and while the surgeon and anesthesiologists seem to be able to quote charges, the hospitals are unwilling or unable to do so. For comparison one of the leaders in New England would cost around $8k for surgeon plus anesthetist. The hospital will not provide a cost quote or estimate but my research indicates hospital charges of around $40k – for an approximate all in cost of $50k. The surgeon in NY quoted $16k for his charge alone, so my guess is that the total cost there would be in the order of $60-70k. The all in cost at a private central London hospital with a leading "harley street" surgeon is $20k, including round trip travel plus a week of post op recovery hotel time. There are very good and less expensive alternatives elsewhere (e.g. Belgium).

    Most would prefer to have their surgery closer to home, but the cost is so high, so non-transparent, and so uncertain that it is bound to drive many patients overseas – particularly uninsured and those with limited coverage and high co-pays. The US's so called "free market" system is devoid of real competition – illustrated by the absurd disparities of cost within the US – it's no wonder that overall costs are so high. (How many people would by a car for $60k in New York if they could buy it for $26k in Pennsylvania?)

    Mary, according to CDC there were 18,000 MRSA deaths in the US in 2005, mostly hospital acquired. UK national statistics show 1,600 in that country in 2005. Yes, US healthcare is good, but it ain't perfect.

    Perhaps it will not be long before medical entrepreneurs are converting cruise ships into hospital ships offering high quality surgical services to Americans at a fraction of the cost that they would charged onshore – with a nice rehab vacation thrown in. (How about that as a new business idea Carnival? ;)) In any event, something surely needs to be done to contain the absurd costs of US care.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  56. Bob H.

    In 2007 I went to my hospital emergency room with pain which turned out to be an infected gall bladder. They treated it with antibiotics, and two weeks later I went home. The hosipital billed Medicare $89,700.00 for my treatment. Outrageous!

    April 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  57. David West

    I am living in Taiwan with my girlfriend. Last October she had a terrible scooter accident and had to be rushed to the emergency room by ambulance. There her scrapes and cuts were all treated and bandaged. She also received several x-rays on her thigh, ankle, & hip. They sent her off with a bit of pain killers, anti-inflammatory medication, bandages, & most importantly crutches. Without insurance she paid a total of 57 USD!!!

    Today I went to the hospital saw the dermatologist and was prescribed two separate creams for dermatitis. I also saw the neurologist because I have been experiencing dizziness. He ordered several EKG tests (I believe it was that) and in addition took a blood sample to test for anemia. I was given an additional medication for vertigo. I paid a total of 112 USD!

    I have never been in such an organized, clean, & efficient health care system. I love it here and I would ask anyone who says socialist medicine is a crock to come seek care in Taiwan.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  58. Murphy

    I recently had to get an MRI. I was told the cost would be $1850. My deductable is $7500, so I asked if there was a way they could work with me. One of the gals looked over her shoulder, then quietly told me that if I did NOT claim it with my insurance company, and paid them cash up front, that the cost would be $570. I also looked into having my surgery overseas. The cost was about the same as my deductable, so I stayed in the US, but the overall bill was $130k... which the insurance company settled for $28k. I am thanful for the insurance, but dismayed by the process. The mopney involved in healthcare seems like a fundamental conflict of interest in the country.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  59. Andrew Romeo

    Just had hernia surgery in St. Petersburg, Russia. $15k in the US for a quickie, pain meds and little to no hospitalization. Russia? $5k with 6 days in hospital (and proper care in a paid government facility) including a private room with plasma TV and 3 squares per day. The fact I work there takes the flight expense away. I'd also looked at Poland, which was $2000 for the US-style procedure plus flights and hotel. Anyway, I'm fit as a fiddle, and satisfied.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  60. Rebecca

    I would not recommend going to another country for any operation.
    I had a tubal reversal perfomed in Mexico at a cost that was half the cost than here in the states. For 4 years we tried to conceive and nothing. I finally had a US doctor go in to check for endemetreosis and he found that my only tube was not even attached and the stichs that were used were to big for my type of procedure. I contacted the doctor in Mexico asking for a explanation or a refund and they couldnt even call me back with an apology. I had to have a second tubal reversal with a doctor in the US. He found that he was able to attach both tubes, not just one that the other doc said all he could fix was one. The point is I should have had the tubal reversal here in the states in the beginning. Other countries cannot offer a guarantee or your money back and if the procedure is done correctly, the docs here are left correcting their mistakes. I had an incision that was 4 cm long. Like a c-section cut. It was a pain I endured twice. Not to mention the 4 years of pain I went thru thinking I was able to conceive or even had the ability too. I feel like I risked my life having this done over there. What if I died? Would my family be able to revenge my death.? Our lawyers has not jurisdiction down there. I hope people think twice before they risk there life having a surgery in another country.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  61. Max

    I had to get some dental work (bridge) done on my lower front teeth. I run my own biz & we do offer insurance. Yet, my-out-of-pocket expenses was close to $3K since I had not 'used' up my portion of the deductible for that year!!!

    My relative is a dentist in the mid-west & he was able to lower it to about $2K – meaning, he and his staff were going to do 'pro bono' work, but I still had to take care of the supplies & other ancillary fees. Add in the cost of RT tickets, I was going to save about $500/-

    I called my folks back in India, found a general variety of dentists @ about $200/- to $500/-. Including a flight ticket of about $1500/- (Cathay is the best) & the chance to see my folks back in India and spend some time with them, it was beneficial.

    Now, some may want to question the 'true' cost of this travel in terms of time-off, recuperating, etc. True, for bigger & complicated procedures, staying away from home, loss of business since you are not in town can potentially add $ to the final equation. In my case, I went during Thanksgiving – it was a slow week PLUS I was plugged in. Hence I DID put in extra effort to be online when the rest of the crowd was sleeping.

    All in all, not a bad deal so far. The bridge is holding fort so far; my dentist has commented that it is a good job since it was a simple procedure. Just my $0.02/-

    April 26, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  62. angela

    My husband had kidney infections every 6-8 months. Every time he ended up in the hospital for 3-4 days and we ended up paying to the stop loss $4,500 of our insurance. We were in the UK on vacation when he got his last one. He ended us in a private hospital in London. They treated his kidney infection and then investigated why he was getting repeated kidney infections, repaired the problem and cures him. No kidney infection since for 6 years. Private room, fantastic care 2 specialists (who knew their job, unlike the 5 specialists he had seen in the US) outstanding aftercare including follow up visits at our hotel, and the home phone numbers of both specialists incase he as they put it "felt a twinge". Total cost $2,134.00 Our insurance company in the US reimbursed $900.00 of that. The doctors in the UK make a fine living. My husband's surgeon drove him back to our hotel when he was released, in his Merceedes. We now know why the Brits live longer, they have better medical care. I suspect as the US continues dropping in the longevity charts we are not 38th down from 27 the previous year, the insurers will get more wealthy and our system will grind to a lower quality of care for ever more money. One of the reasons we are considering emigrating is to improve our chances of survival.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  63. kathy

    a couple of years ago I had to have gall bladder surgery. I had returned to work after being off a year. I had insurance with current employer..I was also covered with my husbands insurance (which was required by this previous employer who he was retired from) and his retirement 3 insurance companies....I still had to pay over $5,000 and for things that all 3 insurnace companies did not insurnace had $500 deductible then paid only 80%... the other two both had $250 with the 80%....what a rip off..

    April 26, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  64. Bill Missett

    How about prescription durgs? A few years back (these figures are accurate, but dated) my son was spending $37.50US for a Parke-Davis asthma inhaler.

    The same exact product was on sale in every drug store in Tijuana for about $3.50 - ONE-TENTH THE COST. Who's getting that obscene markup in the U.S.?

    We are getting ripped off royally by the U.S. medical establishment, and overseas relief won't stop until the U.S. system is reformed.

    And I'd risk surgery in any number of countries before submitting to the exorbitant prices for U.S., surgery, which has just as many - if not more - failures than surgery in numerous other countries.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  65. Scott Whitehill

    After 22 years with American Airlines in Dallas, I injured my back and needed an artificial disk surgery. I paid premiums all those years to United Healthcare and Met LIfe for Long-Term Disability coverage. Texas workers comp denied me after 3 hearings and 1 final appeal, saying they "didn't see any long-term benefit" for me. I offered to pay the 20% copay with UHC, but they wouldn't touch it, saying it was a Worker's Comp claim. Then I was told by Met Life that LTD coverage only lasts 2 years, and then you have to go on Soc Sec disability. I had to leave 5 years before I was old enough to retire, and my penison will be far less than I'd planned. So folks, even with all the insurance coverage in the world, you still aren't guaranteed any help. For every "one of me" there are 20,000 other people in the same boat, or worse off. Every person in the U.S. is subject to having this happen at any given moment.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  66. Debi

    Not a horror story – however I just received a bill for a simple blood work test that is performed everyday for thyroid level. They took one small vial of blood – cost $998.00. Thankfully I have health insurance, however my share was 238.00 still a little crazy huh? I am not even sure how I am going to pay the 238.00 right now. This just goes to show health care cost is way out of control and the insurance companies do not care.

    I called BC/CS and asked them – their reply – "we do not care what they charge, all that matters is what we pay, the allowed amount. The amount allowed was 238.00"

    Since my deductible wasn't met yet – I get to pay the 238.00 – still 238.00 for a simple blood test????

    April 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  67. J&E

    A year ago my wife went into a local hospital to have Colonoscopy, as recommended every 5 years by the AMA for persons over 65. The doctor was a very competant surgeon, over a period of some 25 years he told me that he had performed over 20,000 colonoscopys.
    When she was released that evening I brought her home and she immediately went to bed. An hour later, at 8:30 pm, she screamed in pain, she was really hurting, so I took her to the immergency room for treatment. At around midnight we were told that she had internal bleeding and that they would keep her over night. The next morning the doctor called and told me that her bowel had torn loose from her abdominal wall and that surgery was required to sew her up. During the surgery, because it was in the way, he had to remove her spleen. She spent a week in the hospital and over 3 weeks recovering at home. The cost to medicare and our supplimental insurance was over $35,000.
    If you took your car in for repair and it broke down on the way home, you would call the garage and they would come and get you and your car, take it back to the garage and continue working on it until it was fixed, all for NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE.
    While I don't really blame the doctor..., so much for quality care in the USA. Thank you AMA.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  68. Nathan James

    CNN – Just do your job. Report on 5 to 10 or more medical situations and track every dollar, every profit percentage by organization and person. Report on how much it costs to run an ER, how many people are being provided service for free and what percentage are actually paying for it. Report on how much one hospital's overhead compares with another (look at the marble floors and glass tiles, the rented plants vs. the basic care facility) and relate it to their profit margins; show the professions average income for nurse to GP, to surgeon and compare it with other countries, then show us the subsidies from government through taxation. Report some facts like a serious news organization and keep the report growing report live rather than just writing a GASP!, OMG! story. There's an idea. Maybe someone should start a new news organization.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  69. Virginia Hale

    I am quite sure the taxes in some of those countries is double and triple our tax rate. So people pay one way or another. We have insurance that pays and people can choose their own plan. I like being able to make choices instead of the government making them for me.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  70. USA is the best, regardless of "facts"!

    It's ridiculous all the comments from people about how "America's Healthcare is still the best, that's why it costs so much."

    Get over yourselves, A trained surgeon in the US is no better or worse than a trained surgeon in Canada, Australia, UK, France, Germany, etc.

    Our healthcare system isn't the best because it is forcing people to fly overseas to get operations done. I'm beginning to think that anyone who is against public healthcare and defends the current system has to be working either for an insurance company, or a pharmaceutical company.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  71. Dan

    My mom visited us here in US, Chicago in 2007. She had severe Arthritis and doctor had recommended knee cap. She was planning to get knee cap done after her visit to USA 5 months later in India. While she was here we thought of taking a opinion from a specialist here in Chicago. Since she was on visitor insurance and the medical expense was not covered, we were given estimate of $100,000. She went back home in Mumbai and got the surgery done in 4 weeks time. It was a package deal where a patient walks in the hospital and all expense including test, medication, room, operation room, food and including doctor’s charge. The amazing thing is, the knee cap is imported from USA and there are import custom charges for import. She was out of hospital in 6days. It cost us $5000.00. Its been close to 3 years and she is doing good.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  72. sam

    My wife and me are from India. Even though , she works as a physician at a hospital in Pensylvania, she took a vacation to India last month and got her braces done for Rs 2000 which is equivalent to 50$. It would have costed us 5000$ here as our insurance just pays 1000$ for orthodontics. I am taking a vacation this august to get my braces done.

    We just could not understand why the procedures are this expensive in US.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  73. rich rifenburg

    The problem in the US is that people without insurance pay charges that are 5 times cost. Medicare pays about 20,000 for bypass surgery.
    This case isn't about cost it's about cost shfifting. You can't see a doctor unless you have group purchasing power. Hospital and doctors mark up rates to cover the cost of what the uninsured and Medicare dosen't pay.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  74. Scott

    Why are hospitals so expensive? Why is it that hospitals needs to be in permanent construction mode? Does this country need a moratorium on hospital expansion and remodeling? Does a hospital system need to be the size of a small university?

    Does the insurance companies only make the situation worse because, they have exclusive contracts with particular hospitals, so the brain surgery center has to be replicated 20 times in the city?

    April 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  75. Brian Price

    Chad talked about a $22K estimatel for ACL repair at Stanford University. Our son recently had that surgery at Standford – with before and after care the total bill for a 90 minute operation is approaching $60K. Unbelievable!! And the care wasn't very good. We can't afford this as a country. Its' great to increase medical coverage – but costs very seriously need to go down. I had knee surgery in Eugene, OR a year ago and the total was under $20K – so it can vary by locale. And the quality of the care here was much higher. The big cities are probably going to be more expensive – as will those clinics with big reputations like Stanford.

    We've outsourced IT to India – if our medical situation doesn't get better here – I can see outsourcing that as well.

    April 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  76. Tom

    Why is everyone amazed at this story? Between the health care providers and the health care insurance industry, prices for everything from medicines to surgery is aff the charts here in the US.
    BTW, to Sanda the story, he was UNINSURED and the prices for an operation here and overseas is the complete price, without post op care in both cases.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  77. Lori

    It figures that an American Insurance Company would get in the business. Just watch the foreign rates increase exponentially

    April 26, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  78. User

    Surgery costs are totally out of control here. I had broken my shoulder in late 2008. The hospitals that needed to do the operation were backed up for 10 days. In the mean time, I was told to go home with the sling and "tough it out" with some strong meds. What a nightmare. Meanwhile my busted bones in my shoulder started healing while I was wating.... Long story short, by the time it was all said and done my insurance got billed 86k to put my collarbone back together with a plate. Everything else had to heal on its down. Procedure took 2.5 hours. What a joke.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  79. Karly

    This is a joke right? i have to day this that people like that i get but. I am DISABLES and get want he meams but right now going to over Wales ok. That is home ountry i get it but when brain are you going to be so shopping around to and end up in Wales. Have the Surgey go wrong and then i should have done it the US. for right now we have the beter health. before OBAMA who i a hate take over. Poeple with disables can go shopping around it is hard then this is doing. I get Botox in my leg and it $2,000 TO GET EVERY TIME be queit and get a job with befits and if now than it is own fault. I am cover private and government but i do not for granted. It could alway change.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  80. Nicolita

    I have been watching the healthcare debate from up here in Canada for the past year – and have absolutely had my jaw drop to the floor. I never thought much of healthcare in the US, I just assumed that since our countries are so similar – that this would be similar too.

    I have heard some really interesting reports about Canadian healthcare – such as super long wait times, and doctors that are hard to get into, etc. So I thought I would share the reality of a a middle income regular person living in Canada. The reality is that I pay $50/month for medical insurance (yes the only type we have – government – and it is mandatory – if you have a low income you pay a lower fee or nothing at all but it tops out around $75/month). If I need to go to a doctor, I go to any one I want – any hospital I want. No cost. I have never experienced a line up, have always gotten in that day, and never had to wait for any care. Nor have any of my friends or relatives. One interesting story is a good friend who went for an eye exam, and a tumor was suspected. That night he was admitted to the hospital. The next morning he had brain surgery. No waits. He was in the hospital for a month undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. The cost? $0. Covered by insurance – the same insurance everyone has. The quality and waiting time is the same whether you make $20K a year or $150K a year. Everything is covered, outside of cosmetic surgery. Healthcare here is never something anyone I know of worries about.

    That is the reality of medical care, from one regular person's real experience, at least here in Canada. And believe me, no one in Canada thinks we're a socialist country. We are a capitalist democracy, far, far different from what socialism really is. We just happen to value our healthcare system – it's not perfect – but it works and it's so nice never having to worry about losing everything you have just because you – your partents, your grandparents or your children happen to get sick. I just can't see how this is not a good thing.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  81. Ernie

    -What type of nasal surgery did that man have? Rhinoplasty?-

    I had an Embolization procedure done to block one of the nasal passages. This was to stop my nose from bleeding. I called the hospital, Carolina's Medical Center, and got a quote of $6,000-$10,000. That seemed ok. At least I could manage to make payments. When the bill came, it was $27,430. Plus the radiologists bill of $7100. And the anesthesiologist bill of $4200. This was a half hour procedure. I was in at 8AM and home by 2PM. 2 hours spent in post up waking up from the anesthesia. I guess I should be flogged for not having insurance for 4 months. My wife is a nurse practitioner, ironically, but she was still finishing her last semester of school at the time. Now im stuck paying bill collectors for the next 10 years. BTW, one, and I mean ONE, pain pill was billed for $219.

    Who would like to help take up my cause? I'd gladly give you my number.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  82. Dave

    I'm baffled by those that think our health care system is "in shambles". Yes, the proposed cost of surgery in the US is high.... that value is artificially inflated because the surgeon knows Medicaid is only going to reimburse him/her a fraction of that total amount. The other contributing factor is that we need tort reform. If an international surgery goes bad; what are the monetary consequences for that physicians? I can guarantee they are far less than an American physician. That's why the surgeon has an annual liability deductible well over 6 figures.

    I'm glad to see many on this post realize the underlying cost in our healthcare system are inflated by these non-medical factors. The only governement intervention we need in our system is tort reform.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  83. Shannon

    After a car accident left me in the hospital for 2 months and physical therapy for a year I had to counter sue the other driver. Our car insurance settled and I won some money. As soon as my medical insurance found this out they demanded payment back saying that it would "benefit me in the long run".

    April 26, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  84. LD Keller

    Thank you for putting this story on the internet. I am one of those uninsured person who had to give up the luxury of having insurance when to cost got too high to bear. It was pay the mortgage or pay the insurance, which was almost double my mortgage.

    We need to know this and the more information we get helps us make these hard declisions. If I have to have surgery, you bet I will check out side the United States. Screw you Republicans and everyone who is fighting Healtcare Reform! Wait until you don't have insurance or a job.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  85. Joe

    I am having my hip replacement surgery in Hungary....

    April 26, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  86. Kelly Barnard

    My son was attacked by our family dog and we took him to an emergency room at a hospital that our insurance company's web site listed as in network. At the hospital they determined that my sons skull was fractured and they need to transfer him to the children’s hospital which was also list as in network. He was treated at the children’s hospital by the trauma unit. We have recently received bills from the doctors that treated him for out of network rates. This is the kicker; the hospital is covered by our insurance, but not the doctors in the trauma unit. WHAT??? So now, not only do we need to ask if the hospital covered but also are all the doctors at the emergency room in network, all the while our son's head is squirting blood. Has anyone else heard of this? The health care system in the US is busted. We have insurance, but every year it seems more like dealing with car salesman whenever it is needed.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  87. no comment

    true story: i had lithotripsy in the US: $14K, insurance paid all but 20%.
    i had the exact same non-intrusive proceedure overseas: $560.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  88. Mike

    to Mary Wells- true US is so much better...but what good will that do to any of us if we cant afford it....

    April 26, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  89. Kumar

    How else would our Doctors be able to live in mansions, drive nice cars, take nice vacations and be fabulously wealthy ? How ? How ?

    April 26, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  90. Alex

    I was referred to a "specialist" orthopedic physician to look at an injury to a finger nail that I sustained during construction work. After a 10 minute visit in which he reviewed the x-ray of my finger he mentioned nothing was wrong and it was cosmetic damage, and quoting him "since I am not a girl it should not matter to me'. A few weeks later I got a bill for almost $300 and the pain in the finger persisted and discoloration and swelling.

    I showed a pharmacist who recommended Bacitracin ointment, it made it feel better and reduced the pain. I got input from an online health forum and then used Listerine and Vinegar mixture – this did the trick, the pain went away, started healing the injury with new nail growth and the swelling and pain went away within a week, all for under $10!

    April 26, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  91. Jim

    My doctor is chairman of a statewide group of doctors that are working to get insurance costs under control in Pennsylvania. He told me that his office charges 3 to 10 times what they should charge for services because the insurance companies pay a tiny fraction of the bill for submitted claims. If he changed his normal rates, he'd be out of business.

    April 26, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  92. Kurt w

    In this country, a lot of doctors own their own offices, employ staff, pay rent and property taxes on their offices. Combine that with normal cost of doing business, American medical protocol as required by standard of care and you have phenomenal costs that add up.

    Furthermore, 19 of 20 patients in the ER do not ever pay a dime for their treatment so, cost is shared by those who do pay and therein lies the reason for extreme fees to those who do pay. I had a 45 minute carpal release surgery. The orthopedic group owned their own office. The amount billed was $13.5K.

    I had physical therapy at $420. per hour billed to BCBS. I know that public aid would pay something like $75. for the same service on one of their recipients. How can this be justified?

    It could have been cheaper but not in this country. kw

    April 26, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  93. Sanda S.

    What type of nasal surgery did that man have? Rhinoplasty? If an insured patient goes out of country for surgery, then they will more than likely pay out of pocket for that surgery. If it's something non-covered like cosmetic surgery then maybe that is why he is going out of country because he would have to pay for it himself regardless. An insured patient might have an out of pocket expense that is less than what they could travel and get the surgery. There are lots of factors when determining what is cheapest.

    April 26, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  94. Sanda S.

    It is unfair that you do not have representation of both sides with this report. You quoted $144K for cardiac bypass in the U.S. and then give a figure if they had it outside the country that was much cheaper. The most important thing for people to know is physicians are NOT being paid $144K for bypass surgery. When you quote that what does it include? That is NOT what the physician charges. Is it total expense including facility, ancillary providers, surgeon etc? Your report is bias. What does the patient incur with travel expense when they go overseas. What happens when the unthinkable happens and they are in the hospital longer than expected? Physicans are contracted with most major medical insurance and there are negotiated fees that they are paid. You may get charged 25K for a bypass surgery, but the physician may get 1/2 of what they charge if they are fortunate. I enjoy watching CNN but I do not like the biased reporting you are doing on healthcare.

    April 26, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  95. Cynthia West

    I had minor out patient surgery a couple of years ago and was originally told my obligation would be $1100. My insurance would pay the balance. Then I received a bill for $11,000 from some third party billing organization. Naturally, at first I thought it was a typo, so I called to follow up. They said, no, it was correct. I informed them that I was told my portion would be $1100 and the woman on the phone said, 'ok, we'll send you a new invoice.' The sense I was left with was that this organization, that was not related to my doctor at all, was just mailing invoices out and seeing if folks would pay the price. Felt like a very shady practice and organization.

    April 26, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  96. Ellie Iglesias

    What I find unbelievable is how is it possible to have any type of surgery, whether in 3rd world country or otherwise in England, Australia, France, etc so inexpensive and fast when the citizens of those country must wait some times up to 6 months in order to have the surgery or, if of monetary means, come here??????

    April 26, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  97. Leah S.

    Well, certainly the care in England is comparable to the care in the US, yet it's 10 times less expensive! There should be alarms going off all over the place on this one. WHY are we so much more expensive? WHERE is the money going? And most importantly, can we do anything about it?

    April 26, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  98. Chad Johnston

    I was quoted 22,000 for a torn ACL surgery at Stanford hospital. I flew roundtrip to Sydney, Australia, had the surgery by a top sports doctor for 2,800. I wouldn't recommend surgery in third world countries but places like the UK and Australia have amazing healthcare. Our system us in shambles.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  99. Mary Wells

    fine... okaay... its cheaper to have operations outside of the USA...
    but certain VERY high risk (even though 'routine') operations like 'Heart Bypass' Surgery, have and need ilmportant after care.... and in the US, this is incredible!!!! i had a parent who had such an operation...and coming from the developing originally, a place that has some of the best surgeons... there is NO WAAY i would have wanted my mother to have been in that country for the aftercare!!!
    sorry... the USA is still the best for medical care!!!

    April 26, 2010 at 8:43 am |
1 2