New reaction to high healthcare costs: Consumer anger

Americans have become angry over rising healthcare costs, Consumer Reports reported.

Twelve percent of nearly 1,100 American adults surveyed said they spent more than $5,000 of their own money on medical bills in the past year, and 11 percent said they had trouble paying their medical bills.

Consumer Reports noted that this financial distress takes place as the U.S. healthcare system has become the most expensive in the world and oftentimes does not provide quality for its price.

"There is no such thing as a legitimate price for anything in healthcare," George Halvorson, former chairman of Kaiser Permanente, told Consumer Reports. "Prices are made up depending on who the payer is."

As a result, more Americans are angry at the way their healthcare is delivered. For example, more than 90 percent said a $37.50 bill for a single Tylenol is outrageous. Eighty-nine percent believed that a doctor who orders an MRI because he owns the machine is also outrageous. And 80 percent found that a $1,000 per pill hepatitis C treatment was also outrageous.

They are also angry at the piecework way that care is being delivered, which drives up prices. "If you have a treatment that requires three CT scans and re-engineer it to require only one, it won't happen because two CT scan places will lose a source of revenue," Halvorson said. "Piecework also rewards bad outcomes. It pays a lot if you have a heart attack but very little for preventing it."

Consumer Reports reported that some insurers now reveal the costs they negotiated with providers, and that practices such as reference pricing will help reign in costs. A reference pricing plan involving hip and knee replacement surgeries saved the California Public Employment Retirees System more than $5 million.

To learn more:
- read the Consumer Reports article