Monday, February 27, 2017

Investigation reveals massive fees at Sutter Health monopoly hospital

Investigation reveals massive fees at Sutter Health monopoly hospital
Learn the facts behind Sutter Health's high charges while it operates as a tax exempt charity
Whether you have private insurance or Medicare, you will pay much more at Sutter Health hospitals.  Research comparing fees at regional healthcare facilities, including Sutter Coast Hospital, shows charges and "out of pocket" costs are highest at Sutter, by far.  From x-ray, MRI, and lab tests, to surgical procedures and doctor fees, you pay more at Sutter:

The charge for knee x-rays at my office is $84, which includes the doctor's fee to interpret the x-ray findings (known as the "reading fee"). Medicare allows $38 for taking the x-rays and reading the study.  Sutter's charge for the same x-rays at their facility in Brookings, Oregon, not including the reading fee, is $181.  For the same x-rays at Sutter Coast Hospital, not including the reading fee, Sutter charges $515.

The pattern is similar for laboratory tests.  At a reference lab less than one mile from Sutter Coast Hospital, the bill for a blood test for liver function was $18.  Sutter's bill for the same test was $117.  

For MRI, surgical procedures, and colonoscopy, Sutter's charges are even higher--thousands of dollars more than other providers.  If you need urgent care, consider these reports from ER patients at Sutter Coast:

--doctor bills exceeding $2,000 for less than 10 minutes with the doctor
--a $595 fee for the ER doctor to apply a brace
--patients routinely subjected to unnecessary tests 

Why is this important?  Because overpriced healthcare harms us all: 
  • high health insurance premiums reduce employee wages
  • out of pocket healthcare costs hurt individuals and families
  • expensive healthcare drives jobs overseas
  • healthcare overcharges erode retirement and trust fund budgets
  • Sutter's charges raise worker's compensation costs to businesses
Q.  How can Sutter charge higher fees? 
A.  Market power.  Sutter Health's market power and high fees have gained national attention: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/health/as-hospital-costs-soar-single-stitch-tops-500.html  

In Crescent City, Sutter Coast Hospital receives an annual $2 million federal subsidy as a "sole community provider."  Its monopoly status also allows the hospital to charge higher fees to patients.  

Q.  Do Sutter's profits stay local?
A.  No.  Every two weeks, Sutter Health transfers all local hospital profits to the "Sutter Health Treasury."  Sutter executives nearly tripled their salaries after taking ownership of locally owned hospitals.

Q.  Can Sutter's high fees be addressed?
A.  Yes, with your help (see below).  Sutter is already reacting to growing opposition over its business practices:

Be aware of Sutter Health public relations campaigns. When you see the advertisements, remember they are crafted to divert your attention away from Sutter's high charges and misuse of its tax exemption.  Also remember who is funding Sutter's PR campaign--anyone who goes to Sutter, pays for health insurance, or pays taxes.  Sutter's "charity" status allows it to avoid taxation while accessing billions in tax exempt bonds.  

What Can You Do To Help?

1.  Share this newsletter with interested friends, and post on Facebook.  

2.  Ask Sutter for your itemized bill.  For a confidential review of your charges, send me your hospital bills.  I have found overcharges and fees for services not provided, forcing Sutter to issue refunds.

3. Share your healthcare ideas and concerns with me.  Email gregoryduncan1200@gmail.comcall 707-465-1126, or stop by my office at 1200 Marshall Street in Crescent City to pick up flyers and sign our petition.  
Click here to listen to my radio interview covering the history of Sutter Health

Next issue:  Sutter Health's executive salaries and public relations campaigns, all funded with your healthcare dollars and Sutter's tax-exempt treasury

Disclaimer:  This publication reflects my personal views and is not representative of my roles as a member of the Del Norte Healthcare District Board, or as Chief of Surgery at Sutter Coast Hospital.
Gregory J. Duncan, M.D.| (707) 465-1126 | gregoryduncan1200@gmail.com| http://crescentcityhospital.blogspot.com/

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