Friday, October 21, 2011

Affordable Health Care!

I found this ephemera on eBay recently. It's a receipt from the hospital I was born in (3 years later), and a statement from the medical clinic at which I was a patient essentially all my young life. (I actually remember the huge cash register-like machine in the clinic office that printed these very bills!)

I was also fascinated to see what doctors and hospitals were charging for their services 60 years ago.

The Magan Clinic bill pretty much tells the story. Mr. Randolph becomes ill the week before Christmas, 1950, and Dr. Magan (the founder of the clinic himself) pays a house call on him on Friday, Dec. 22. He evidently finds something wrong, and tells Mr. Randolph to come to his office the next business day, Tuesday, which amazingly enough is the day after Christmas. (No two-week Holiday vacations for doctors back then!) At the Boxing Day office visit (for which, you'll notice, the doctor did not charge his customary fee), Dr. Magan has his patient get a chest x-ray. Pt. comes back on Friday, and the doctor orders a blood test. Whatever Mr. Randolph has evidently gets much worse over the weekend, though, and he ends up in Covina Hospital. Every day for a week, the doctor visits him in the hospital; on the second day he even pays two visits. By the following Monday, whatever was wrong with Mr. Randolph has improved enough to allow him to leave the hospital, then, a couple weeks after release, Dr. Magan gives him a clean bill of health, for what I suspect was probably a bout of pneumonia.

The hospital bill for 7 days cost Mr. Randolph $94.81 out of pocket. He apparently had Blue Cross, so if we assume the standard 80/20 cost split, that means the full amount of the hospital bill was $475, roughly $70 per day. In 2011 dollars, that's $4,145; about $600 per day. (Dr. Magan's bill would be $1,186 today.)

So, in 2011 dollars, this course of treatment that spanned approximately one month ran up $5,331 worth of charges, with Mr. Randolph having to pay roughly $2,000 of that. Not cheap, but what would just the 7 days in the hospital cost today? I shudder to even think about it.