Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us


Steven Brill wrote “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” in Time Magazine, Feb 20, 2013. This 36-page behemoth is actually a quick read, and I think worth the time spent. I never learned this stuff in medical school.

As doctors, we order tests for the “benefit of the patient” regardless of cost. We take this as a badge of honor, that we’re willing to forgo expense to give our patient the best care possible. But it doesn’t stop there. The patient does get a bill for this stuff. They are uneducated consumers. We are uneducated providers. Students and residents, this will become your problem. It will probably become my problem. I think it’s worth taking some time thinking about how this will affect how you practice medicine.

Of course, there are other sides to this story. Hospitals report that they need to charge higher prices to recoup losses from patients who couldn’t pay. Device manufacturers will want to recoup their R&D costs. And we cannot deny the profit motive in inspiring innovation.

Regardless, we should start talking about this now so we can address.

NPR had an interview with the author. If you don’t want to read the 36 page article, take a listen to this: Planet Money – Medical Bills

Also check out the post on Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. As always, feel free to put your comments below.

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