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Home » Jeanne Pinder: What if All US Health Care Costs Were Transparent? (Transcript)

Jeanne Pinder: What if All US Health Care Costs Were Transparent? (Transcript)

Jeanne Pinder – TED Residency December 2018 TRANSCRIPT

So, a little while ago, members of my family had three bits of minor surgery, about a half hour each, and we got three sets of bills. For the first one, the anesthesia bill alone was $2,000; the second one, $2,000; the third one, $6,000.

So I’m a journalist, I’m like, what’s up with that? I found out that I was actually, for the expensive one, being charged $1,419 for a generic anti-nausea drug that I could buy online for $2.49.

I had a long and unsatisfactory argument with the hospital, the insurer and my employer. Everybody agreed that this was totally fine. But it got me thinking, and the more I talked to people, the more I realized: nobody has any idea what stuff costs in health care.

Not before, during or after that procedure or test do you have any idea what it’s going to cost? It’s only months later that you get an “explanation of benefits” that explains exactly nothing. So this came back to me a little while later.

I had volunteered for a buyout from the New York Times, where I had worked for more than 20 years as a journalist. I was looking for my next act.

It turned out that next act was to build a company telling people what stuff costs in health care. I won a “Shark Tank”-type pitch contest to do just that. Health costs ate up almost 18% of our gross domestic product last year, but nobody has any idea what stuff costs.

But what if we did know? So we started out small. We called doctors and hospitals and asked them what they would accept as a cash payment for simple procedures. Some people were helpful. A lot of people hung up on us.

Some people were just plain rude. They said, “We don’t know,” or, “Our lawyers won’t let us tell you that,” though we did get a lot of information. We found, for example, that here in the New York area, you could get an echocardiogram for $200 in Brooklyn or for $2,150 in Manhattan, just a few miles away.

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