Ask Brill Anything: Hospitals Running Up The Tab

Here he details how non-profit hospitals have become so profitable, with a follow-up explaining how difficult it was for him to decode medical bills:

While on the subject of hospital revenues, just last week a maddening new study came out indicating that hospitals make even more profit when they screw up:

The study is based on a detailed analysis of the records of 34,256 people who had surgery in 2010 at one of 12 hospitals run by Texas Health Resources. Of those patients, 1,820 had one or more complications that could have been prevented, like blood clots, pneumonia or infected incisions. The median length of stay for those patients quadrupled to 14 days, and hospital revenue averaged $30,500 more than for patients without complications ($49,400 versus $18,900). Private insurers paid far more for complications than did Medicare orMedicaid, or patients who paid out of pocket. …

The study does not imply that hospitals intentionally complicate surgeries to bring in more revenue. Most surgeries, about 95 percent, go off without a hitch. What it does suggest to the surgeon, writer and Harvard professor Atul Gawande is that hospitals now see little reason to invest in technologies that would reduce complications when the only prize at the end would be lower income.

Yesterday, Steve gave an overview of why US healthcare is so expensive. You can also go here, here and here to read our coverage of his must-read Time cover-story, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us”. Ask Anything archive here.