- Del Meyer, MD - https://delmeyer.net -

Hospital Costs

The CEO of a large insurance company wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper about how he was trying to reduce health care cost by cutting hospital stays. He quoted an example of sending mothers home on the same day of delivery. This was an unfortunate example since most mothers already go home in a day or so after delivery.

This may be the wrong emphasis in controlling cost. Doctors have been very successful in reducing hospitals days as safely as possible. But we’re finding out it may not have decreased hospital costs.

Surgeons, for example, have developed laparoscopic techniques to remove gallbladders, appendices and ovaries through a tube inserted into the abdomen. This has drastically reduced hospital stays from, in many cases, five days to one day.

Doctors naively assumed that the hospital charge for a one-day hospitalization would be about one-fifth the charge of a five-day stay. I was shocked when my patient brought in her hospital bill indicating a $15,000 charge for taking out her gallbladder, especially since she was only in overnight. The full five-day stay under the DRG Medicare system was less than $10,000.

In our example above, the insurance CEO is making a hundred doctor’s salaries by getting the doctors to risk their patients health in sending them home the same day of delivery. In the hospital example, the charges are increasing despite a false guise that they are trying to reduce costs by sending gallbladder patients home in one day. Doctors are being blamed for doing too many surgeries when, in this example, the surgery should have cost 80 percent less rather than 50 percent more. It appears that anything physicians do to decrease health care costs will be subverted by others into an increase. It’s time we put the blame where it belongs.

These messages were written in the years as noted and may be somewhat dated at this time. Please consult your physician or other health care provider.