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Hospital Headlines Color Public Perception

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 25, 2012

The health system said it is committed to protecting the privacy rights of its patients and is evaluating the issues raised in the AG's report.

"We take the concerns raised by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson very seriously. We have been in consultation with her on these issues for several months. We share many of her concerns and have already taken actions to address them. It is critical that our business practices align with our values and comply with applicable laws and industry standards," the statement read.

How Much Will It Cost? Depends on How Much You Can Pay.
The huge variance in hospitals charges for the same procedures is not a new story. However, it is a particularly damaging story these days because cash-strapped patients are angry and confused and looking for someone to explain why healthcare is so expensive. Also, the government is turning over every gurney to look for savings.

In this environment, reports that hospitals are charging anywhere from $1,500 to $180,000 to treat acute appendicitis will not be well received, nor should they.

"Given estimates that 60 percent of bankruptcies in the United States involve catastrophic medical expenses, these data should alarm those making decisions about our society's ability to obtain medical care without financial catastrophe," researchers wrote in a letter published online April 23 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The report was picked up for general readership by HealthDay News and published in many mainstream media outlets, including U.S. News & World Report.

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