WASHINGTON - From their lengthy detail to the price tag, there’s no doubt that medical bills leave a lot of people scratching their heads.
Just having an operation performed in the OR can cost about $3,000 an hour, and that dollar figure comes from a variety of places.
If you look at the hospital bill, you might see an IV charge that can run about $280. A medical stapler can cost about $1,200. A chest tube, which is used for a person with compression in a lung, comes in at $1,100. Even a biopsy needle runs at about $800.
So why does this medical equipment cost so much? Most technologies take years to develop, so not only does the equipment cost cover the materials but also the research that led to its creation. Each piece of medical equipment also requires a certain level of effectiveness — doctors and patients trust that IV bags, needles and staplers will function consistently as promised — so that durability and reliability also factor into the charge.
But there are other costs, too. Someone has to pay for administrative costs, as well as for procedures for people who can’t pay on their own. Those costs get absorbed in everyday bills for everyday people.
And just because an amount shows up on a bill does not mean that’s what gets paid. The typical hospital collects about four cents for every dollar that it charges.
Understanding hospital costs might not be important to someone with comprehensive medical insurance, but for the roughly 50 million uninsured Americans, that cost breakdown is vitally important.
If you do not understand your bill, you can call your hospital and ask for an explanation of costs. Perhaps you can even negotiate some of the prices into a more reasonable cost window.
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