After detailing Cottage Hospital’s billing practice of marking up their drug prices by 2,999 percent, or 10 times the national average of 299 percent, Faith Ozan asks, “How will new health-care legislation prevent this from happening in the future?” [“All Marked Up,” 1/7/10] The answer, for the bills now before Congress, is that current federal legislation does nothing to prevent hospitals from establishing market monopolies and charging patients accordingly. With the rest of the country, Santa Barbarans are living through an era of privatization and private monopoly building. Public hospitals have largely disappeared or been gobbled up by heavily capitalized private hospitals. Capital formation is the name of the game, and Cottage can hardly be blamed for playing it successfully. What we need by way of legislation is a game changer.
In California, Senate Bill 810, authored by State Senator Mark Leno, would control medical and pharmaceutical costs with statewide global budgeting, bulk purchasing, and resource allocation. That’s how medical care has been made equitable and affordable in other industrialized democracies, which have preserved capitalism but not allowed it to ruin either the physical or financial health of the people. — Bill Marks
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Regarding the Voices column on Cottage Hospital marking up prices to be so very profitable, I was recently billed $2,944 for emergency room services one afternoon in October and separately I paid a specialist physician who visited the ER $200. Then a month later I was billed $1,716 for the ER doctor who had treated me including all the supplies, tests, and interpretations of results. So if the initial $2,944 didn’t cover seeing the doctor or any of the supplies or tests, what on earth was that for? $2,944 to rent the chair I was sitting in while a bed was freed up, or rent for an hour in that bed? With our for-profit Medical Insurance Complex bribing Congress, the common man has little hope for reasonably-priced medical treatments. I suppose we’d have to fly to Havana for that—oh yes, we aren’t allowed to do that because of the embargo!—William Noack