$125 K of premium medicine
By Arnold Kling
Wall Street Journal technology reporter Lee Gomes describes his treatment for pneumonia.
Abbott’s Harold C. Flynn says it takes the Cell-Dyn 34 seconds to do an analysis. During that time, it counts an average of 325,000 cells, and then goes back and does more tests on 80,000 of them. (To think that once cells were counted by hand, by a lab tech looking through a microscope!)
As for the cost of all this, well, take a deep breath. This is where the conundrum of medical technology becomes apparent. The bill for my 10-day stay was $125,000 — and that doesn’t include any charges from my doctors. Those CT scans were $3,000 each, 10 times the cost of an X-ray. Each white blood-cell tally was a relative bargain at $250.
…Of course, I doubt that I would have declined any of the high-tech wonders I was offered. Who would? And that attitude is a main cause of our soaring health care costs. The decisions that are in our best interest as individual patients, in the aggregate, help push things into crisis. We can’t afford the remarkable system we’ve been smart enough to build.
But you can be cured of pneumonia for a lot less than $125,000. If you had to pay with your own money, would you really opt for all those expensive procedures? Some people might, but many might allow doctors to treat based more on guesswork and experience than fancy scanning and monitoring.
In any event, if you were paying for premium medicine out of pocket, that would not be a social crisis. It would be an individual choice.