Monday, August 5, 2013

While in Atlanta for a wedding...

...this weekend* I was told by one of my most devoted readers (my son) that my blog was getting a little stale. To this I plead guilty -- too many posts about those darn Republicans (especially Ted Cruz), too many links to other people's writing and too much yammering on about health care reform and blah, blah, blah. (I think even I'm getting tired of my writing.)

While I don't know exactly what to do about remedying the situation at this time, I realize that the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. So, if nothing else, I'll be mindful of that going forward.

(And, by the way, if you see a mistake anywhere in this blog, like spelling Oprah Winfrey's name wrong, help a guy out and give me a heads-up.)

Now, having said all that, I think it's worth calling your attention to a front-page article in the Times yesterday, "In Need of a New Hip, but Priced Out of the U.S." It's a fairly long read, but more evidence that the American health care system -- despite being far and away the most expensive in the world -- has some serious flaws.

Michael Shopenn’s artificial hip was made by a company based in [Warsaw, Indiana], a global center of joint manufacturing. But he had to fly to Europe to have it installed.

Mr. Shopenn, 67, an architectural photographer and avid snowboarder, had been in such pain from arthritis that he could not stand long enough to make coffee, let alone work. He had health insurance, but it would not cover a joint replacement because his degenerative disease was related to an old sports injury, thus considered a pre-existing condition.

Desperate to find an affordable solution, he reached out to a sailing buddy with friends at a medical device manufacturer, which arranged to provide his local hospital with an implant at what was described as the “list price” of $13,000, with no markup. But when the hospital’s finance office estimated that the hospital charges would run another $65,000, not including the surgeon’s fee, he knew he had to think outside the box, and outside the country.

“That was a third of my savings at the time,” Mr. Shopenn said recently from the living room of his condo in Boulder, Colo. “It wasn’t happening.”

“Very leery” of going to a developing country like India or Thailand, which both draw so-called medical tourists, he ultimately chose to have his hip replaced in 2007 at a private hospital outside Brussels for $13,660. That price included not only a hip joint, made by Warsaw-based Zimmer Holdings, but also all doctors’ fees, operating room charges, crutches, medicine, a hospital room for five days, a week in rehab and a round-trip ticket from America.

“We have the most expensive health care in the world, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best,” Mr. Shopenn said. “I’m kind of the poster child for that.”

* Since no one guessed correctly where I was the big prize money will be rolled over into the next contest.

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