WASHINGTON, May 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Skyrocketing hospital charges have become a major factor in driving up overall healthcare costs, and exaggerating a healthcare crisis nationally as increasing numbers of Americans are priced out of access to needed medical care or pushed into financial ruin or bankruptcy, say nurses.
It's also a reminder of the ongoing gaping hole in the Affordable Care Act on its weak provisions for controlling costs, says National Nurses United, the nation's largest organization of registered nurses, following release of new national and California data on the relationship of hospital charges to hospital costs.
The findings reveal:
- U.S. hospitals charge on average $331 dollars for every $100 of their total costs, in statistical terms a 331 percent charge to cost ratio.
- While hospital charges over costs have been climbing steadily over the past 15 years – the charges took their biggest leap ever in 2011– a 22 point vault.
- From 2009 to 2011 (the most recent year for which the data is available), hospital charges lunged upward by 16 percent, while hospital costs only increased by 2 percent.
- U.S. hospital profits, pushed upward by the high charges, hit a record $53.2 billion, while nurses see more and more hospitals cutting patient services and limiting access to care.
"There is no other word for this than price gouging," said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of NNU whose research arm, the Institute of Health and Socio Economic Policy produced the findings based on an analysis of publicly available Medicare Cost Reports.
"The consequences for patients and families are immediate and severe. High hospital charges get passed along by insurance companies to employers and individuals. Employers drop health coverage or shift the burden of cost to workers, many of whom then must choose between getting the care they need or paying other bills in a still stagnating economy for so many," Burger said.
- NNU also released data for California showing that California hospitals soared past the national average with a charge to cost ratio of 451 percent, or $451 for every $100 of costs.
"Hospitals should be providers of care, not loan sharks," said Burger. "But we also know that price gouging is widespread throughout the health care industry, and that is a symbol of what is wrong with our profit-focused healthcare system, and why we need real reform."
"Effective reforms would include a crackdown on inflated charges as well as greater public oversight and protection generally. Ultimately, the only long term solution is still the transformation of our broken healthcare system to a more humane system, such as in expanding and improving Medicare to cover everyone," Burger said.
SOURCE National Nurses United