Health Care Costs

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's not often that people in the news business find themselves extolling the work of some other journalist.

In this week's Tom's Corner, however, Tom Van Howe is doing exactly that.

Tonight, Tom is talking about the 38-page Time magazine article on the high cost of health care that we ignore at our peril.


There are lots of things in the world today that make me a little angry.

But every once in a while something fills me with a sense of rage.

And reading this giant, 7-months-in-the-making, dissection of our health system by Steven Brill, is one of them. 38 pages documenting the "outrageous pricing and egregious profits that are destroying our health care.

In painstaking detail, it spells our how hospitals and their CEO's have made a mockery of their 'non-profit' designations by reaping enormous sums of money off the backs of sickness, death and misery.

I'm the first to admit that the whys and wherefores of the high cost of staying healthy in this country have eluded me. For years its had been annually outstripping inflation by double digits. And when anyone has the temerity to ask why, we get this "well, for the best health care in the world. That's just the way it is.

Well, look: we spend more on health care in this country than the next 10 biggest-spending countriescombined.

We spent nearly three trillion last year, on an industry that spent nearly two billion dollars last year alone on lobbying our congress. For the recordthat's more than all defense contractors combined.

And what do we get for our money? In terms of life expectancy, we rank behindamong othersDenmark, Australia, Spain, Japan, and the UK.

Infant morality? We rank 50th... 50th! Nine spots below Cuba.

Ours is a system in which virtually everyone who uses itand actually sees a bill for services renderedgoes into sticker shock.

Hospitals charges ungodly amounts for absolutely everything, including tens of dollars for a laundry list of things you'd buy for pennies at the drug store.

It's a world in which the CEO of your local hospital, along with his or her assistants, is likely to be among the highest paid people in town.

A world in which 62 percent of all the bankruptcies in this country are related to illness or medical bills.

There are lots of discussions in Washington, Lansing, family tables, and coffee shops about how to pay for all this.

But rarely does anyone make the case that it simply costs too much, and what to do about it.

Our system needs to be changed. Steven Brill's article in the March 4th issue of Time magazine opens the door. Its the perfect peg on which to start.

In this corner... I'm Tom Van Howe.