Uncommon Charges for Common Procedures Drive $2 Trillion Medical Bill

When Deirdre Yapalater of Long Island was told by her doctor that she needed a colonoscopy, she signed up for one without asking the price or looking for alternatives. But even though her insurer paid the bill, she was stunned by the cost: $6,385 – as compared to less than $1,000 in many other developed countries.

Mrs. Yapalater’s family premiums have gone up 10 percent in the last year, and co-pays are rising – leading her to decline physical therapy for an injury she suffered, and to refuse dermatology medication prescribed for her daughter. Her story is recounted in a major report on the drivers of high medical costs by Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times, published June 1.

Frustratingly, even doctors themselves are often unable to get clear cost information, the Times article showed.

“When Dr. Michael Collins, an internist in East Hartford, Conn., called the hospital that he is affiliated with to price lab tests and a colonoscopy, he could not get an answer,” The Times reports. “It’s impossible for me to think about cost,” he said. “If you go to the supermarket and there are no prices, how can you make intelligent decisions?”

For more astonishing and exasperating revelations about the way American health care pricing really works, see “The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill: Colonoscopies Explain Why U.S. Leads the World in Health Expenditures.”