Patients Are Paying for Amenities Rather Than Care, Says Health Care Expert

Fordham Newsroom

When Elisabeth Rosenthal— an award-wining journalist and former ER physician— began researching the business of health care, she didn’t have to look further than the hospital bills of many Americans for signs of what she calls “a dysfunctional medical market.” Above: Elisabeth Rosenthal, author of An American Sickness, discusses the American healthcare system. Photo by Michael Dames“I would call people in other countries and say, ‘What’s your facility fee for an operating room’,” said Rosenthal, author of An American Sickness (Penguin Press, 2017). “And I’d hear this silence and they would go, ‘What do you mean a facility fee?’”
Rosenthal was the speaker at an April 18 talk and panel discussion organized by the Gabelli School’s Global Healthcare Innovation Management Center. She holds an M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School and currently works as the editor-in-chief of Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service that reports on the health care system. A former health care reporter for the New York Times, she is best known for her award-winning series on the costs of health care called “Paying Till It Hurts.” Through her research and conversations with patients, practitioners, and other health professionals, she said, she learned that medical concepts like facility fees are “uniquely American.”
According to Rosenthal, there are evidence-based studies about how medicine should be practiced in the U.S., yet economic incentives remains a top priority for many hospitals.
“We know what things work, but there is a lot of financial interests against them working,” Rosenthal said.
Cautionary Tales 
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. health care spending increased 4.3 percent in 2016 to reach $3.3 trillion. The agency projected that national health spending will grow at an average rate of 5.5 percent per year to reach $5.7 trillion by 2026.
In an age of hospital consolidations, Rosenthal said illnesses have become a form of …

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