In The U.S. Health Care System, Three Stitches Can Cost $2,000

| by Will Hagle

With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act and the governmental debacle that surrounded it, health care has quickly become the foremost discussed issue of American politics. While the typical argument surrounds whether or not individuals should be forced by the federal government to buy into the private health insurance marketplace (and whether or not the website that allows them to purchase that health insurance should have been speedier and more efficient), few have discussed a central issue behind all of these other complicated problems: hospital care is extremely expensive. 

A new article from the New York Times profiles two patients, 26-year-old Deepika Singh and toddler Orla Roche, both of whom required care after gashing a knee and cutting a forehead, respectively. Singh’s bill from California Pacific Medical Center was $2,229.11 for three stitches. Roche’s bill from the same hospital was $1,696 for “a dab of skin glue.” The article covers other relatively minor ailments that are easily treated before patients are slapped with enormous bills. 

According to Newser, a health economist explains that the prices determined by hospitals are “basically arbitrary,” and those running the hospitals “can set them at any level they want.” 

The majority of hospitals throughout the United States act as nonprofit organizations. However, many of them still engage in practices such as over-billing or refusing to turn away patients to rival hospitals (which results in overcrowding and an overworked staff) in order to increase their revenue. This money is subsequently used for a wide variety of reasons: buying equipment, expanding facilities, paying nurses and doctors, and paying the corporate executives themselves. Still, the line between how much a patient should pay for their service and how much a hospital needs to function is difficult to determine. 

According to the New York Times, “hospitals are the most powerful players in a health care system that has little or no price regulation in the private market.” While the Affordable Care Act has taken some logical steps to make the high costs of health care easier to manage for all individuals, the enormously complex of the health care system in the United States is far from being solved.