5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

ER bills, cancer drugs, consumerism and spending caps are covered in our roundup of stories on the cost of health care.

  • One patient, two CT scans and an $8,629 difference

Kaiser Health News tells the tale of one patient who got CT scans at two different locations — one at an imaging center and one at a hospital emergency room. The first scan cost him $268, while the second came with a price tag of $8,897, which the patient’s insurer negotiated down to $5,516. “The higher price from [the hospital] could be a result of their enormous pricing power” in its area, according to an expert interviewed by KHN.

The case of a $937 ER visit for antibiotic ointment

Hospital ERs often charge steep prices for scans, drugs — or just for walking through the doors. Vox details the story of one couple who took their daughter to the local ER with a toe injury. After a physician assistant examined the girl and applied antibiotic cream, the family was hit with a $937.25 bill. The 25-cent charge was for the ointment; the remaining $937 was a facility fee. Read the full story for more.

Cancer drugs get more expensive, but not more effective

The average price of cancer drugs increased from $7,103 to $15,535 in a nine-year span, but there was no parallel rise in clinical benefits, according to a new study. “Cost is not connected with benefit, and cost is going up quickly, and benefit is highly variable,” one expert told Reuters.

Is consumerism the key to lowering health care costs? These wonks are skeptical.

Health care industry wonks discussed how to reduce the cost of care during a panel hosted by STAT and The Atlantic. What they ruled out: turning patients into smart-shopping consumers. What they say may work: changing how we pay clinicians and aligning the price of drugs with their value. Read a recap of the panel from STAT.

Maryland has its hospitals on a budget. Could that work across the nation?

Hospitals in Maryland must tightly control their spending because the state sets a budget for each hospital’s inpatient, outpatient and emergency care. That includes all payers — including commercial insurers, Medicare and Medicaid. A proposed bill in California would move the state toward a similar framework. The jury is still out, though, on how it affects spending. In The Upshot blog from The New York Times, an economist digs into Maryland’s results and whether its approach could work across the U.S.

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