Kremmling " Eric Murray: $6 aspirin a bitter pill for many patients
I often hear how people are particularly outraged by a line item on their hospital bill after they’ve had a stay in the hospital.
“They charged me six bucks for a pill I could have bought a whole bottle of at the grocery store!”
But yet they’re totally cool paying $3.75 for their vanilla latte at the coffee shop, $2.50 for their bottled water at the gas station or $8 for their breakfast burrito at the restaurant.
I think that part of the difference is that people enjoy the latte, water and burritos but the pill just isn’t as fun so the asking price is psychologically less tolerable.
When you buy that latte you are not just paying for the coffee concoction, you are paying for the milk, the syrup, the cup, the labor it took to get it into your hands and a very long line of costs leading up to that end consumer price.
When you buy that latte, (or any thing else at all for that matter), you are not just paying a mark-up for profit so the business can continue to serve you, but you are also paying the “hidden” costs including a percentage for the floor you stand on while you are ordering, the lighting in the shop so you can see the menu, the cost of the credit card machine and register, the shops advertising expenses and a certain amount for the milk that didn’t get used because the date expired and a certain amount for the person who took six napkins and three stirring spoons at the condiment bar and so on.
You could even add in factors further away from your field of vision such as the cost of the cow who produced the milk in your latte, the cost to cut down the tree that is now your cup or the cost of harvesting and shipping the sugar cane used to make your syrup. You can see we could go on and on about the factors involved in your $3.75 latte right?
Health care is subject to all the financial rules of capitalistic economics as anything else on the market and more so.
Kym Colvin, in-house pharmacist at Kremmling memorial Hospital, considers the variables behind the price of all medications and monitors the market, ensuring accuracy.
“I constantly make sure our pricing is in line with similar providers, in addition to regulating the quality, safety and accuracy of drugs.”
Before you pop a blood vessel thinking about the price of the pill on your hospital bill, remember some of the factors involved in the price including:
– Highly trained and demanded health care professionals i.e., doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, radiologists to be at your beckon call 24/7, 365 (whether utilized or not they need to be there just in case and that costs);
– Administrative professionals to ensure the facility is a properly managed business and is there when you need it now and in the future;
– Professional pharmacists tracking, management and safety of all medications;
– Regulation of policy, procedure and safety of meds by Drug Enforcement Agency and the State Board of Pharmacy;
-Taking up some of the slack of uninsured and underinsured (health care is a pricey privilege, not a free right);
– Time value of money (you don’t pay right away for hospital bills like you would pay right away for your latte and that time has costs);
-The time taken for specially trained staff to deal with your particular insurance company (these Wall Street characters have a tendency to pay slowly, less or not at all and the hospital/provider then gets caught up between the patient and their insurance company);
-Overall hospital costs including administration, maintenance, dietary, ancillary services, physician and nurse recruitment and retention.
This list could go deeper of course, but I think it touches on some of the key “hidden” reasons for the cost of that $6 aspirin.
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