Rising medical costs are often blamed on patients' lawsuits or the inability of health insurance companies to sell coverage plans across state lines.
However, The New York Times recently reported on a practice called "drive-by doctoring," when medical "assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives."
In many of these cases, the patient never consents to be treated by additional medical personnel, who may be out-of-network for the patient's insurance, which means a massive increase in cost for the patient.
“The notion is you can make end runs around price controls by increasing the number of things you do and bill for,” Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, a former health policy expert at the Brookings Institution, told The New York Times.
The surprise charges have led to complaints to state health insurance commissioners, but the health care industry is lobbying hard to keep "drive-by doctoring" legal, which drives up health care costs.
Another billing trick is when a hospital itemizes services that used to be included basic hospital care. Also, several ER's these days are employed by out-of-network physicians who bill separately.
The National Journal reported on a 2011 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that found America spends far more than any other country for health care, but Americans receive far less actual health care.
The average American was spending $8,000 a year in health care in 2011 compared to the second ranked country, Norway, which spent less than $5,500 per person for its universal health care, which covers everything.
“The U.S. is just this astonishing outlier compared to everyone else,” Mark Pearson, head of the social policy division of the OECD, told The National Journal.
According to the OECD, medications and hospital care cost 60 percent more in the U.S. compared to 34 other countries in 2011.
Sources: The National Journal, The New York Times (Image Credit: Barbara Lock)