We have been previously discussing our ridiculous medical insurance system where citizens are hit with obscene charges — often by design to ensnare those unwilling or unable to challenge the charges. It can range from an $18,000 charge for a napping child to $15,000 for tiny screws to $89,329 for a $750 serum. The system exists because Congress allows it to exist in conformity with an army of lobbyists for the pharmaceutical and medical industries. The latest example was laid out by National Public Radio (NPR). Professor Janet Winston, 56, who teaches Humboldt State University, was charged $48, 329 for allergy testing at Stanford Health Care.
Winston was given a series of allergy tests at Stanford for a six-hour drive because she could not even get an appointment with a dermatologist for months — another persistent problem in our broken medical system.
Once at Stanford, they did a good job in determining that she was allergic to a variety of things, which explained her persistent rashes, including the ketoconazole cream prescribed to treat her persistent rash, the antibiotic neomycin, and a clothing dye as well as metals gold, nickel and cobalt. She then got a bill for $48,329, including $848 for the time Winston spent with her doctor.
Her health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, paid Stanford a negotiated rate of $11,376.47. Stanford then billed Winston $3,103.73 as her 20 percent share of the negotiated rate. The bill showed the same pattern of intentional inflation of costs, which experts told NPR was “nuts.” That included the common 10-1 multiplication of costs that we have seen in other cases. For example, Stanford charged $399 per allergen when the actual test costs around $35.
I remain astonished that the public has not held Congress responsible for allowing this absurd and destructive system to continue without serious reforms. This is about systemic and abusive charges that raise serious questions of fraud, but it is all legal.