When we first read this headline, we thought it was a loose allegory, something akin to selling ice to an eskimo. But no, this headline is to be taken literally. The New York Times ran this article following up on absurd charges billed to a group of tourists who came down with severe food poisoning. According to the Times, “Some of the patients’ bills would later include markups of 100 to 200 times the manufacturer’s price, not counting separate charges for ‘IV administration.’ And on other bills, a bundled charge for ‘IV therapy’ was almost 1,000 times the official cost of the solution.”
So what does a bag of saline solution cost?
“… A bag of saline solution costs far less than their cup of coffee in the morning,” said Deborah Spak, a spokeswoman for Baxter International, one of three global pharmaceutical companies that make nearly all the IV solutions used in the United States. Oh, and then she added that all pricing information is kept private. Nothing like a free market failure.
Well, what’s so bad about keeping prices secret?
Take a look at this photo of the amounts billed to three patients for saline solution after the New York food poisoning incident. Look at the difference in hundreds of dollars between the price of administering it to a child versus an adult, and, as the title of the post indicates, A $546 BAG OF SALTWATER.
It follows the story of the mysterious prices, Medicare failures, some persistent hagglers who paid less than 10% what they were initially demanded, and an explanation on how the saline bags come to market. Then there’s this comment from Dr. Frost, an anesthesiologist who was treated during the food poisoning debacle. She was baffled by the charges: $6,844, including $546 for six liters of saline that cost the hospital $5.16. “It’s just absolutely absurd.” she said. “That’s saltwater.”
Talk about getting wrapped up in the red tape, look at how our healthcare system treats its own doctors.