Foreign Nurses in US
Hospitals and others hire foreign nurses through agencies. The State Department must approve visas. Some agencies train the nurses on arrival about the differences between work & life with US practices, compared to practices in their home countries. They may be paid the same as US nurses, plus a fee to the agency. Traveling nurses are more often US nurses who travel where needed, and are often paid more than local hires.
Insurance premiums for Medicare and Medigap policies are described in 9 pages on SeekingAlpha. There is also information on SeniorCare and Medicare Rights Center about differences in Medigap plans. Medigap covers a lot of copays not covered by Medicare Part A and B. You can't use Medigap if you have Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage). If you don't get a Medigap policy when you start on Medicare, in most states you may not get it later.
Community Health Centers get federal grants and often have lower costs than average.
Cost disclosures are in flux. Checkbook has a good article.
The Wall Street Journal has a good free guide to looking for health care costs, no matter if you pay with Medicare, other insurance, or cash. Finding costs before you get treatment is hard. Dr. David Belk explains about the confusing cost of office visits, including higher pay from HMOs than from fee-for-service. The Atlantic describes 2019 laws and practices of debt collection for unpaid hospital bills.
Each patient's cost depends on his or her insurance.
Doctors' fees under Medicare are in the Specialists tab above. They show what Medicare pays, and the list price for each procedure from each provider. Medicare costs include the total paid by Medicare, supplemental insurance and patients.
Hospital fees for the most common 100 diagnoses are in hospital spreadsheets from Medicare, and are mapped nicely at ClearHealthCosts.
For example the data files show that surgeon costs for knee replacement are typically around $1,500, assistant surgeon $300, anesthesiologist $200, and hospital costs (for "major joint replacement or reattachment of lower extremity") averaged $14,000 if there were no major comorbidities and complications (MCC), or $23,000 if there were.
For a few procedures (primarily imaging, tests, counseling, dental extractions or implants, cosmetic procedures), ZendyHealth gives (free) a range of local prices within a radius you choose. They offer you a doctor based on how much you want to pay ($49 referral fee). You cannot use insurance with the doctor, but Zendy helps you submit a claim to your insurance company, so your cost counts against the deductible. For these and other procedures they offer a free consultation. You have to pay their legal bills if there's a problem ("indemnify"), and accept arbitration. You have no choice of provider, and see the name assigned to you only after you have paid the referral fee. For example different MRI centers have different strength magnets, and you are likely to get the cheapest, weakest magnets, which give less precise images. If you have time to search the Specialists tab above, you can find the lowest price providers and negotiate directly.
Costs in New York state are at pndslookup.health.ny.gov/
Costs for treatments in North Carolina are available from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina, based on their patients and their contracts with providers: bcbsnc.com/content/providersearch/treatments. These have actual costs for a treatment episode, including hospital and doctors. Very easy to access. The free system compares all providers within any radius of a zip code, up to the whole state. You can sort by cost, name or distance. However there are only 1,200 procedures, no info on how often each doctor does the procedure, voluminous output with typically 3 providers per screen, not downloadable, only North Carolina, no procedure codes, so it is hard to be sure what each item covers, no lab costs or drug costs. Their data come from one year, but they don't say which year.
Doctors' incomes derive from the payments above and the volume each doctor does. Average incomes (after expenses) by specialty range from $240,000 per year for Public Health and Pediatrics to $580,000 for Plastic Surgery, with wide variation. Top pay is in KY, TN, AL, MO, probably because of standard payments combined with lower costs. Concierge practices have 1% of doctors. The most rewarding parts of the job are gratitude and relationships with patients, doing a very good job and making the world better. They average 15 hours per week on paperwork and administration. 27% would not choose medicine again, varying by specialties. Wealth averages $1-2 million, depending on specialty and age. A quarter of doctors have over $1 million by the time they are 35, and two thirds do by the time they are 50.
Most doctors at hospitals work for large groups (TeamHealth, Schumacher) which contract to provide hospitalists, radiologists, emergency doctors, etc. Some companies provide doctors to hundreds of hospitals (Envision + Amsurg). Hospital doctors earn $200,000 - $400,000 per year. About half feel fairly compensated. Only a quarter "regularly" discuss the cost of treatment with patients. Over three quarters would choose medicine again and the same specialty.
Insurance payments are complex, and are further discussed throughout this site. A glossary defines insurance terms.
Drug stores in half the states are not allowed to volunteer to you that the cash price is less than your co-pay, but the other half of states have laws letting them tell you. You can always ask about the cash price and ask if they have coupons or discount cards for the drugs you're buying.
Dr. David Belk has clear data on wholesale (NADAC) and retail costs of generic and branded drugs (from GoodRx) and what drives the costs.
CMS has National Average Drug Acquisition Cost (NADAC) database at data.medicaid.gov/nadac. An explanation from West Virginia dhhr.wv.gov/bms/BMS%20Pharmacy/Documents/NADAC%20Survey.pdf
Commercial services (cost) wolterskluwer.com/en/solutions/medi-span/price-rx and www.fdbhealth.com/
IQVIA reports on wholesale and retail costs and number of prescriptions.
Express Scripts has numerous articles on drug pricing and 11 billion prescription records (paid access).
Drugs are distributed to retail pharmacies primarily by three companies: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal, and McKesson, which have paid small fines, relative to their revenue, for not reporting excessive deliveries of opioids.
You can find the number of drug prescriptions from each doctor and costs for Medicare patients in at least 2 places, described below. For non-Medicare prices see above.
ProPublica has Medicare Part D cost for each drug: number of prescriptions and total spending. You can get separate totals for US and each state, so you can get average cost per prescription, and for each doctor who prescribed a drug 50 or more times in 2013.
Medicare itself has more complete Part D data. The US and state summary files (bottom of the link) show for each drug: the number of beneficiaries as well as prescriptions and spending, so you can get average per beneficiary (total during a year), as well as per prescription for each drug.
Medicare's detailed files show number of days prescribed, so you can get average cost of a daily dose, as well as each doctor who prescribed a drug 11 or more times in 2013. This info is in 23 million records, without state or US summaries. However you can get good state and national estimates by opening any of their 36 spreadsheets (divided by last name of prescriber) and getting averages there. The average costs do not vary much by last name of prescriber. (Tips for working with large spreadsheets)
Some doctors and drugs typically have 30-day or 90-day prescriptions, which may be renewed all year. Their averages include the cost for each whole long prescription (30 or 90 days). Docs & drugs with shorter prescriptions only include that lower cost. Medicare's focus seems to be on cutting total costs, not cost per dose.
ProPublica's methodology says it has "retail cost" for these prescriptions.
Medicare's fact sheet gives more detail, saying it includes,
After seeing which drugs a doctor prescribes, you can find drug safety and effectiveness from the main drugs page here.
Doctors identified 25 procedures and tests which may be wasteful, since they usually have low value for patients. They were given to 25% to 42% of Medicare beneficiaries each year, depending on definitions, but they only cost 0.6% to 2.7% of total Medicare costs.
High spending at end of life?
In the United States,
Vox quotes economists that the US health care prices per item are abnormally high. So other countries get more health care for less cost:
"When you’re paying the highest prices in the world for basic services, for scans and drugs, it will undoubtedly be a struggle to provide all citizens with health care...
A 2018 JAMA article compares insurance systems, and a 2008 JAMA article shows the same cost issues in 2004-6, with US doctors' salaries double the level in other countries.
DailyKos has more detail on the range of costs.
Government Approaches which Could Save Money Include:
The government pays a lot for people at all income levels. Medicare Part B (doctors) and Part D (drugs), are not paid by the payroll tax, and are paid by premiums and government aid. (Part A, hospitals, is paid by the payroll tax.) Currently the Part B premium is $105 per month per person, and the cost is 4 times as much, $420 per month, so taxpayers pay a 75% subsidy. Premiums go up with income and subsidy is reduced, in several bands of income, but even the highest income participants get 20% subsidy.
The current premium is about 2% of income (red line above). It is
The Bipartisan Policy Center recommends starting bands at lower incomes (p.59 of full report), which result in higher premiums (and lower subsidies - green dashes above):
Kaiser summarizes a variety of 2014 Budget proposals involving 15% increases in the premiums paid by high income participants, starting the first band lower, and slowly lowering all bands by not adjusting for inflation for several years (red dots above). Premiums would be:
A Tucson blogger recommends charging 5% of income, up to the full cost (purple line above). Dots show bands of income, where people pay
This option charges low income people the current $105, since Medicaid already pays the premium for most of them. Dropping the premium to 5% for low income people would cost Medicare more, but save an equivalent amount in Medicaid assistance, so the $19 billion overall savings would remain. It is far more than the $1.5 billion saved by the readmission penalty. Incomes can be adjusted for cost of living (purchasing power parity) by using US government locality pay. AARP presents arguments for and against basing premiums on income.
In the spreadsheet you can try different percentages and bands. A 3% charge could have bands of income where people pay
The graphs show subsidies people would receive from various proposals. The current Medicare subsidy is large, even at incomes well over $100,000. The government does not subsidize food or housing for people at those incomes. The highest income limit on Food Stamps is $15,000 for one person, $20,000 for two; in subsidized housing it is $55,000 for one, $63,000 for two (Honolulu). Housing tax benefits do go to higher incomes, but people still have to pay the basic cost themselves. Why does the government make such large direct payments for health insurance for people with incomes over $100,000?
Map shows where hospitals are (or maps of doctors)
Financial Data (below)
Quality measures and mixed incentives
Readmission penalties or xls (6MB)
Biggest penalties (methods)
Previous data: Readmission Penalties (August 2013, 3 MB xls)
List of Accountable Care Organizations (many include hospitals)
Other Medicare data
Medicare Costs, Premiums, and Alternatives
Hospital Financial Statements
A slideshow describes different sources of information for non-profit, profit, and publicly owned hospitals, as of 2013.
A spreadsheet (5MB) shows each hospital's 2013 or 2014 financial statements, and many Medicare calculations at each hospital. It includes both Medicare and non-Medicare revenue and spending. It is compiled by Medicare to provide a context for Medicare spending in each hospital, and is called a "Medicare Cost Report"
The spreadsheet includes:
The spreadsheet has brief labels; fuller explanations are in the original Medicare form and instructions. Chapter 40 of Medicare's manual has the form (R6P240f), including work sheets S (p.1), A (p.22), E (p.84), and G (p.100). Chapter 40 also has the instructions (pr2_40, abbreviations are on pp.9-11), which can answer many questions about the entries on the form. The current format has been used since 2010, and other data are available back to 1995.
Another article shows helpful commands for the spreadsheet.
The source also has each hospital's occupancy rate for several departments: general, maternity, ICU, coronary care, burn, hospice, psychiatric, rehab, etc. These have not been put in this spreadsheet. If you would find the occupancy rates useful, please leave a comment below or send an email.
Medicare offers online access and downloadable spreadsheets for 2014 and 2015, without breakdowns by department, ownership, latitude+longitude or penalties.
The original Medicare databases are available from 1995 to the present. They are far more complex than the spreadsheet, with 3 types of records, and millions of records, since every number and answer on each form has a separate record. For those who need it, a CMS documentation page has record counts, a spreadsheet of hospitals covered, and layouts. The Medicare database averages 3,000 numeric records and 600 alpha records per hospital each year. 65 key items are in the spreadsheet, and others can be available if needed.
Other Hospital Financial Data
Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) has PDF copies of operating expense and audited financial statements for each hospital (or other facility), if it has outstanding tax-free bonds. Put hospital name in their search box, to list its past & present bonds. Click any bond which is still outstanding (on right), accept the disclosure, then click "Continuing Disclosure" to see annual and sometimes quarterly data. The data are similar to the spreadsheet above, but in PDF, often with more data from the past, but fewer hospitals.
"Summary of audit findings and federal awards" is an Audit Clearinghouse form a few pages long for each hospital showing checkoffs for any audit findings, and the amount of each federal grant spent during a year ("awards"); it does not cover Medicare or Medicaid, since these are exempt from the federal "single audit" rules. It also shows address, Employer ID number (EIN) and DUNS number.
IRS form 990 for US nonprofit hospitals is available from AHCJ (search by name, place or person; just hospitals; other sources have many more non-profits, which can make hospitals harder to find), Open990 (2010 to present, downloadable spreadsheets) or Guidestar or Foundation Center or ProPublica or Charity Navigator, or CitizenAudit (full text search $350/yr). Form 990 shows total revenue and expense and highly paid staff (schedule J ) and contractors (VII-B). It also shows total received from Medicare and Medicaid in section VIII-2 "Revenue, Program Service," and several types of expenses in section IX, balance sheet in X, political spending in schedule C.
Canadian nonprofits (non-governmental organisations, NGOs) are listed, and some have financial information, at a government site:
Hospital bills for 100 most common diagnoses, 2011 and 2012, for US and each hospital.
Explanation of General Medicare Payment Formula for Hospitals
The explanation is based on information from
Many numbers change each year. There are links to Medicare's "home page" of each year at the bottom of the main CMS readmission page.
Hospital operating base or "Specific standardized amounts"
Hospital capital base
Both hospital bases are multiplied by the DRG weight (Table 5).
Readmission reduction for "excess" readmissions in past years, based on operating costs plus payments for new technology, but excluding capital, and adjusted for transfers.
DSH for poor people
IME for teaching
Outlier payments for very costly hospital stays cover 80% of hospital losses over $23,000 (90% for burns). These total about $16 billion per year and they average about 2.9% of payments for most procedures, including the procedures subject to readmission penalties. They are higher on a few other procedures.
Summary inpatient costs released by Medicare include DRG amount (operating + capital), disproportionate share, teaching, and outlier payments. Operating cost (the base for readmission penalties) is about 73% of these summary costs.
Transfers after short stay get lower payment
New technology add-on payment (NTAP) added if applicable
Large Urban Areas get extra factor, meaning Metro Statistical Areas over 1 million people and New England County Metro Areas over 970,000.
Organ acquisition is paid separately
Value-based purchasing VBP has adjustments, based on operating costs, not capital.
Sole community hospitals (SCH) are paid by other formulas if higher
Medicare dependent hospitals (MDH) are paid by another formula if higher
Low volume hospitals get more, by formula
Qualifying hospitals are in the bottom quartile of counties on Medicare spending per enrollee, and get more
Hospitals not reporting quality data get reduction
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