Hospital Prices -- Biggest Driver Of Medical Inflation -- Remain Opaque

Nothing is more convoluted than hospital charges, which represent about a third of the nation's $2.7 trillion annual health care bill, reports The New York Times. Reuters finds that hospitals may quote prices for parking but not for procedures. Meanwhile, Kaiser Health News describes the trend in palliative care programs, designed to relieve pain and distress, regardless of how long a patient has to live.

The New York Times: As Hospital Prices Soar, A Single Stitch Tops $500
In a medical system notorious for opaque finances and inflated bills, nothing is more convoluted than hospital pricing, economists say. Hospital charges represent about a third of the $2.7 trillion annual United States health care bill, the biggest single segment, according to government statistics, and are the largest driver of medical inflation, a new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found (Rosenthal, 12/2).

Reuters: Hospitals Will Quote Prices For Parking, Not Procedures
People usually don't know what their medical procedures cost until after they leave the hospital, and a new study suggests they would have a hard time finding out in advance. Inspired by an earlier study looking at hip replacement surgery costs, researchers tried to see if consumers could get price quotes for a much simpler diagnostic test from Philadelphia area hospitals (Jegtvig, 12/2).

Los Angeles Times: Cedars-Sinai And UCLA Health Teaming Up To Open Rehab Hospital
Two longtime rivals, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA Health System, are teaming up to open a 138-bed rehabilitation hospital in Century City, reflecting both the growing need for this specialty care and the pressure on hospitals to control costs (Terhune, 12/2).

Kaiser Health News: When Palliative Care Is The Best Care
Hospitals around the country are increasingly starting palliative care programs, designed to relieve seriously ill patients’ pain, stress and symptoms regardless of how long they have to live. While some patients are close to death, others are still receiving treatment to extend their days. And as they do, the palliative care team, including doctors, social workers, nurses and chaplains, tries to improve their quality of life (Gorman, 12/3).

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