Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Health for sale: pneumonia treatment costs up to $38,000

Abusive values ​​are found throughout the country, people even pay $300 just to be attended. In a hospital in Dallas, USA, treatment for pneumonia cost, on average, $14,000. In the same city, however, the amount charged for the same service can reach $38,000.
In Florida, medical care is cheaper for any heart problem costing around eight thousand dollars. The most expensive is 75,000. Back in New Jersey, a medical center charges $101,945 (about 200,000 dollars) to implant a pacemaker in the heart (the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, for example, charges about 10 thousand dollars for the service).

Among other examples, the U.S. government revealed in early May a table with the price difference in different hospitals of the country. For the first time in history, Americans have access to a detailed plan of how much is charged for hospital services. The result was shocking.

As there are no regulations for the sector, the service providers charge no list price. Some hospitals in California, for example, are "asking $300 just to get the patient in and ask what the problem is," said the student, Marcus Murakami, interviewed by Opera Mundi.

In a statement, Washington said that variations can occur depending on the severity of the patient or the duration of treatment. The quality of the service, however, is not the reason for the difference in prices, the government argues.

Experts attribute the disparity in the health system to the fact that the patients have not mobilized against abusive prices or, in most cases, do not even have access to the amounts charged.

The hospital bill usually goes to health plans, who pay on average 90% of expenditure. For the lower classes, the government offers subsidies - federal health plans pay for care. In the U.S. there is no public health system - all hospitals are pay.

"Patients do not care about the amount of the hospital bill because they know they will not pay anyway. It is the health plan or the government paying. Since there is no concern, hospitals can charge up to $900 for an aspirin," said management professor, Garrett Taylor, to Opera Mundi.

Those who suffer most from the extortionate prices of hospitals are foreigners without official coverage, and Americans who do not have money to pay for a health plan and, at the same time, their household income does not fall into the "poor" - a group of people that the government provides a subsidy.

According to information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans without health insurance in the U.S. is 45 million people.

"It is not true that people do not care about the value of the coverage. For those who do not have insurance, they must pay the bill in full. Then the price of the service does matter," professor of medicine at the University of San Francisco, Renee Hsia, told the Washington Post.

By spreading a table with prices charged by hospitals in the country, the government seeks to break the encirclement of opponents against Obama's Medicare - a project that creates a unified health system in the country, similar to SUS in Brazil - and gain support across the population.

The difference between the amounts charged by health plans and hospitals are up to 10-20 times more expensive than what the federal administration proposes for Medicare.

Opera Mundi

* With the collaboration of Gabriel Colombo

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova