Cost of care varies from place to place

I am beginning to feel like I used to when my dad would say, "Shop around" before I got my car fixed. I am being facetious, but the new reports on the varying costs for procedures coming from hospitals reminds me of the day I asked my plastic surgeon how much a procedure cost, and his reply was, "You have insurance don't you."That's not the point, but let me back up. For those of you who have been on a desert island, the government has for the first time released data on what hospitals are charging Medicare for specific medical procedures. You can get the gist of this by reading the New York Times article, but if you Google it you can go directly to the list of hospital charges yourself. Prepare to be stunned. While some of the differences are bound to be clerical and the distinction between what one hospital includes in a defined service compared to another, it's fairly clear we have some significant discrepancies here, and we are all being hurt by them. You can see where they biggest costs accumulate with an excellent map created by National Public Radio that has the South looking rather greedy.Medicare is under the gun. My last blog had to do with cuts to cancer clinics that are sending cancer patients on Medicare to hospitals for treatment. These hospitals may be hundreds of miles from the patients' homes and require that they acclimate to all kinds of new procedures and people that require difficult, confusing and stressful transitions. For those clinics that try to hang on to their patients, the cuts will be made in support staff and other overhead. What galls me the most about this whole cost structure issue remains the bottom line for the poor. These procedure costs are not just for Medicare, they are the costs for the procedure, and they are also billed to insurance companies who can negotiate a lower rate based on the fact that they are insurance companies and that is how they operate. So insurance companies speak for the insured and Medicare speaks for the elderly and in some instances Medicaid speaks for the destitute. The people who get hit with the whole bill are the hard working lower middle class who don't have insurance and aren't poor enough to get Medicaid. We already know that anyone who gets cancer, insured or not, will probably declare bankruptcy. Yes, your read right, with insurance. If your insurance pays 80 percent that still leaves 20 percent for those without really good insurance. Add up 20 percent of $300,000 for two years and you have massive debt, and that does not account for loss of income and all the personal expense that goes into a cancer diagnosis. I really don't know where to go from here – except England. Oh, except I don't believe in socialized medicine either.