Healthcare Expenses in the US: These Hospital Bills on Reddit Say It All

August 26, 2013
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Originally published on MedCityNews.com.

TIL a few surprising tidbits about how the cost of healthcare in the U.S. stacks up to other countries.

I actually saw them on Reddit — where TIL stands for “today I learned,” by the way. Yesterday some Twitter chatter (h/t @fredtrotter) brought to my attention that many a frustrated American has taken to Reddit to share his appalling medical bills in return for advice or empathy.

Originally published on MedCityNews.com.

TIL a few surprising tidbits about how the cost of healthcare in the U.S. stacks up to other countries.

I actually saw them on Reddit — where TIL stands for “today I learned,” by the way. Yesterday some Twitter chatter (h/t @fredtrotter) brought to my attention that many a frustrated American has taken to Reddit to share his appalling medical bills in return for advice or empathy.

In some cases, the comments are more interesting than the pictures themselves. This one from yesterday already has more than 280 comments. It’s from an uninsured user who said she went to the emergency room for stomach pains, where she was given morphine and several tests before being released six hours later.

hospital bills

I was fascinated to see that a lot of the users’ comments were in touch with some of the major issues the industry grapples with: the chargemaster, volume-based payment and access to health insurance, etc. Here’s one example:

People shouldn’t be using the ER like this. Regular primary care visits and urgent care center visits cost hundreds of dollars, not thousands. He waited until the last minute to seek care, and probably didn’t indicate his lack of insurance before they gave him the most expensive radiology service offered

Perhaps most interesting though is the people from other countries who told of similar experiences.

Honduran here. My last visit to the ER was $100 (meds included). The most I’ve spent in a hospital is $1500, which included surgery, meds, and post-op care. Health care and education in the US are so expensive :(. Sorry you have to go through that, OP.

And another:

My same experience :

I had appendicitis and I had to go to the ER in Canada. I had to get the same screenings as you. They gave me all sorts of pain killers and I even experienced the drip medicine! In the end, my bill came up to around $40 and that was for the ambulance. I love Canada.

A quick search through Reddit pics turns up dozens of other interesting hospital bills, like this one from someone in Alberta, Canada, posted with the (sarcastic) subject line “Outrageous hospital bill for having a baby.”

healthcare social media

Outrageous, right? Here’s another that caught my attention, from a user whose great-grandmother had a baby at a New Jersey hospital in 1965.

healthcare costs

Yes, the number in the total box says $165.10.

It’s easy to talk about how expensive healthcare is in the U.S., but it’s different to actually see it. Granted there’s a much bigger picture that isn’t captured in these bills — tax rates, access to care, quality of care, inflation, etc. — but they’re certainly a reminder to keep innovating and pushing for change.

[Images from Reddit/imgur]