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George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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Betsy Ogden, center, of Salt Lake City, lays colorful paper-link chains on a pile at the office of Utah Gov. Herbert during a rally, Friday, March 1, 2013, in Salt Lake City. Herbert is coming under increasing pressure to accept the federal government's offer to expand Medicaid. The chains were meant to represent the state’s uninsured that would be covered by Medicaid Expansion. Each link represents about 10 people. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Holding our health for ransom ...

Instead of constantly arguing about how to pay the skyrocketing cost of health care, maybe it's time to resolve that we just won't pay so much.

Stop paying medical ransoms — George Pyle | The Salt Lake Tribune

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Phone rings.

"911. What is your emergency?"

"My wife has been kidnapped. I found a note saying that I have to pay $500,000 by midnight tonight. Can you help me? Please!"

"Yes, sir. Just tell me how the ransom is to be delivered and we will provide the money for you."

"What? Don’t you want to catch the bad guys?"

"Oh, no, sir. That would require some real police work, which is very expensive. And it would also require us to make a judgment as to who is to blame. People would be embarrassed and jobs would be lost in the kidnapping and blackmail sector of the economy. Now we just use taxpayer money to pay ransoms. The money flows through the economy. We don’t have to hire so many police officers. And you do want your wife back. Don’t you?"

That’s not exactly how the discussion went the other day at the Utah House Health and Human Services Committee. But the decision made there, to forward a bill that seeks to weaken the state Medicaid Office of the Inspector General, is based on the same idea. Namely that we’d rather pay whatever the health care providers demand than crack down on overcharges — accidental or deliberate — and get our ransomed lives back without any more argument. ...

An average ER visit costs more than an average month’s rent — Sarah Kliff | Washington Post Wonkblog

Steve Brill’s recent Time cover story, for me, drove home one key point: Prices in our health-care system are absurd. They range dramatically depending on where you seek treatment and what type of health insurance coverage you have.

Brill examined seven medical bills in his story to make this point. A new, NIH-funded study takes the idea even further: A team of four researchers looked at medical expenditure bills that represented more than 8,303 emergency room visits.They found, essentially, two things. First, huge variation in prices: Bills sent out for sprained ankles ranged from $4 to $24,110. Second, overall, really high prices: The average emergency room visit now costs 40 percent more than a month’s rent. ...

Welfare for the Medical-Industrial Complex — Paul Krugman | New York Times

Stephen Brill’s long piece about medical costs has brought forth a mixture of praise and annoyance from health-care economics experts, including Aaron Carroll and Uwe Reinhardt; they’ve been screaming for years that our medical system charges too much, and so they’re both gratified and annoyed to see a major-media piece confirming what they’ve been saying all along.

Weirdly, though, Brill sniffs at one thing that we know works to keep prices down: single-payer systems that can say no. There’s a reason single-payer systems are pretty much universally much cheaper than systems — even the Swiss system — that run things through private insurers. And it’s not just the administrative costs.

Note that Medicaid, in particular, which is able to say no in ways Medicare can’t, is substantially cheaper than both Medicare and, even more so, private insurance. ...

Can the Government Control Health Care Costs By Fiat — Megan McArdle | The Daily Beast.

Bureaucrats are not Captain Jean-Luc Picard. They cannot just "make it so".

What Steven Brill gets wrong about U.S. health care costs — Oren Cass | National Review Online

U.S. Health Care Costs — Kaiser Family Foundation

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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