Here is an article that will take you a while to read.  Seriously, put aside 20 minutes for this one.  Find a folder on your computer to save this, as you may want to refer to it down the road.  The author has basically outed the “not-for-profit” hospitals for what they are:  medical mercenaries.  Outrageous charges, CEO salaries, you name it.  If you don’t want to take a lot of time reading this, skip to pages 3, 4 and 5. Oklahoma City’s very own Mercy Hospital is mentioned as a price abuser!  The author gives all the gory billing details of an $87,000 outpatient visit to Mercy (less), including padding an implantable device by $30,000, an move that seems contrary to their stated mission (also quoted in the article on page 5):  ” carry out the healing ministry of Jesus by promoting health and wellness.” Oh.  And bankruptcy.  Mercy’s $4.28 billion in 2011 revenue is revealed in this article.

Hospital CEO’s who have ownership interests or board positions on pharmaceutical companies with which they do business-that’s in this article, too.  $4,000,000 administrators and their flunky VP’s making only slightly less-it’s all there.  

I am disappointed, however, that there is no mention of the uncompensated care scam or repricing tricks that bring in billions and one of the main reasons hospitals start with their “chargemaster” rates.  I also don’t understand the timing of this article.  Readers of this blog know that this information has been out there for a long time.  The most glaring deficiency of the article is the lack of any blame-placing on good old Uncle Sam, the architect of the current mess, creating a corporatist environment in which the favored cronies like these giant hospital systems can do exactly what this author aims to expose.  In fact, he reserves his highest praise for a Medicare bureaucrat named Diane Kovach!  

Mainstream media, Time included, ran articles during the Obamacare debate centered on getting everyone “coverage.”  The Lamborghini prices the hospitals were charging and why they were doing this never got any attention.  While the big media spoke about the high price of care, there was never any mention of what we all knew:  Obamacare would serve to cause a further skyrocketing of prices (I believe this is intentional as readers of this blog well know). 

Just before he almost ruins the entire article with his “fixes” for health care’s high costs, and right after he brags on the efficiency of Medicare!, he says this:

“Put simply the (hospital) bills tell us that this is not about interfering in a free market.  It’s about facing the reality that our largest consumer product by far-one fifth of our economy-does not operate in a free market.”  

The author’s remedies are just what you would expect from mainstream media, appealing to more government and taxes, price controls, mandating more of this and more of that, but never harnessing the immense power of market forces.  He also gives the usual lip service to the “good” parts of Obamacare….yuk.  The article seems schizophrenic at this point.  I honestly didn’t know what was coming next, perhaps a mention of our free market facility!?  Yikes.

Hats off to to Gilberto A. Rodriguez Campbell for passing this along.  This is a massive article, a data gold mine that confirms everything you have read on this blog about these so-called “not for profit” hospitals.  Don’t let the statist flavor of certain parts of this expose (particularly the end) ruin it for you.  

G. Keith Smith, M.D.