A visit to a hospital in Europe is an eye-opener to the many ways monopolized U.S. hospitals pad their profits with unnecessary costs.

By Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect

Last month, I experienced some symptoms that mimicked a possible heart attack. It turned out to be a false alarm, and I’m fine. But taking no chances, we headed for the emergency department at the American Hospital of Paris, where I’ve been living this fall. I got a complete workup: a full physical, cardiogram, blood tests, a scan to check for possible clots, and a consultation with doctors. The care was efficient and superb. It all took less than four hours.

covid-19 patient in hospital on breathing machine

At the end of the visit, when I was pronounced in good health, I was presented with the bill: 875.57 euros, or about $890 at prevailing exchange rates. At a good hospital in the U.S., the bill would have been at least $10,000, maybe double that, mostly paid by insurance.

The visit to the ER alone, before a single test was done or care was provided, would have been billed at more than the total cost of my workup in France. In the U.S., the average ER “facility” charge is $1,201.

My visit was such a bargain compared with standard billing practice at U.S. hospitals that I wondered if I was somehow being subsidized by the French medical system. So I sought out one of France’s leading experts on hospital financing and comparative hospital systems, Dr. Isabelle Durand-Zaleski, who is both a professor at the University of Paris and a practicing physician.

Dr. Durand-Zaleski reviewed my bill, which was conveniently displayed in a single page with clear line items. She confirmed that these were the hospital’s actual costs, and the identical bill would have been sent to the French social security system, had I been a French citizen. And, bien sûr, the French citizen would have paid nothing out of pocket.

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