Salt and water, better known in healthcare as saline solution, is a cheap staple for hospitals, costing anywhere from less than 50 cents to slightly more than $1 a bag. But the New York Times reported that some facilities are marking up the price to $200 or more per bag of solution.
According to the Times, confidential deals, the use of group purchasing organizations and price opacity has helped lead to huge markups. It traced some of these markups among a group of bus tourists who were treated at various hospitals in upstate New York after suffering food poisoning.
St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital, which serves the Hudson Valley, charged a 56-year-old woman and her grandson a total of $1,180 for IV therapy, the Times reported. White Plains Hospital, which provides care to Westchester County, charged $91 for one liter of saline that cost the hospital 86 cents, along with another $127 to administer it.
Hospitals overcharging for staple medicines and treatments is fairly common. According to the North Denver News, Colorado's hospitals charge on average four times their actual costs.
As a result, maternity care in the U.S. is the most expensive in the world. Hospitals also are reluctant to disclose the prices of common materials and procedures, particularly in advance. According to the Times, distributors for saline solutions also do not want to disclose what they charge.