There are many health care plans being proposed to “fix” the growth in medical costs in the United States. Each of these plans has different elements but I haven’t really seen the particular linked issue addressed that I am going to speak of in this blog post.
I make a point of reviewing my medical bills. When you have surgery, for example, you receive an itemized bill. In that bill you can see services from each provider and also the cost for the room, medicine, etc… Frequently the costs seem far out of line from reality (outside the walls of medicine); a room could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a night; an aspirin or readily available over-the-counter medicine could cost many dollars per pill.
The real issue is that the medical industry is primarily a “fixed cost” business, with very low “marginal costs”. For example, if you look at the Northwestern Hospital facility downtown, a vast series of interconnected buildings, and asked yourself this question:
“How would costs vary on a given day if the facility was full of patients vs. having NO patients?”
The answer is that the costs for that day would be virtually identical whether or not the hospital had patients. You still need to pay for the facility, the doctors, the electricity, and all the support workers and nurses. Virtually the only “variable” costs that would be avoided are the cost of medicines and food, but the medicines are inventoried and they need to hold stocks in advance and the food must be purchased based on planned demand and the spare food would just be thrown away (the costs would be pretty much the same).