The Challenge of the Hospital Chargemaster
The Overarching Issue
With the publication of Steven Brill’s 24105 word article entitled, “Bitter Pill—Why Medical Bills are Killing Us,” in the March 4, 2013, edition of Time Magazine, the national discussion of the high cost of health care in America began to crystallize around issues involving the cost of hospitalization and overall health care costs in general in the wealthiest and most productive nation on Earth.
Brill’s article follows a highly critical account of the cost of health care in America that appeared in The Healing of America, by T. R. Reid, noted author and Washington Post correspondent and a long-standing commentator for National Public Radio. Both Brill and Reid have compared the cost of health services in America to those of other developed nations; independently each has concluded that health care costs in the United States, if continuing their upward spiral unabated, can and likely will bankrupt our nation’s ability to sustain the fabric of its economy.
The critiques of each of these authors, as well as those of several researchers who are seemingly aligned with their thinking (including Clayton Christenson, PhD, of Harvard University, the spokesperson for a line of thinking and research that embraces Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare as a method of saving our health delivery system), all focus on the seeming genesis of evil in the delivery system: the Hospital Chargemaster. With unbridled passion, and with a seeming growing credibility of this line of thinking, the critics of America’s hospitals believe that the Chargemaster demonstrates both an inability and a lack of interest or commitment to controlling the cost of health care in this country.
The result, as concluded by many who endorse this perspective, is that if the United States allows health care costs to reach the level of 23% of GDP, this will constitute economic Armageddon and will bring the entire US economy to its knees. In other words, health care spending will account for all government and most private spending. Thus, the preeminent focus is on controlling costs of health care in America.