Tune in to our radio show on your local public radio station, or sign up for the podcast and listen at your leisure. Here’s what it’s about:

Whatever your stance on the politics of health care insurance, everyone agrees that high health care costs are a problem. One patient was shocked to learn that his emergency treatment with anti-venom for snakebite came to nearly $90,000.

One way to combat high prices is for patients to pick the most cost-effective treatments, but trying to find out what a procedure will cost can be a big challenge. An investigative team consisting of a doctor and his 14-year-old daughter set out to find out what hospitals would share about prices. Parking: yes; EKG: not so much.

Hospitals also tend to honor transparency more in the breach when it comes to medical errors or doctors with less than stellar outcomes. Dr. Marty Makary has issued a call for his colleagues to embrace much more transparency in all these critical areas. How can that be accomplished?

Guests: Jillian Bernstein is in the ninth grade at Haverford High School. Joseph Bernstein, MD, is Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Their article was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Steven Brill is a journalist and author of a TIME magazine special report: “Bitter Pill: How Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” 

Martin Makary, MD, MPH, is Associate Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Surgical Director of the Johns Hopkins Pancreas Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic. He is Chief of Minimally-invasive Pancreaticobiliary Surgery and Director of Minimally Invasive Pancreas Surgery. His book is Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care.

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. nj

    Last year I had a hospitalization after lying for 18 hours while dehydrated in the ER waiting for a room. I was admitted with the wrong diagnosis, given the wrong treatment which included a broad spectrum antibiotic and then was discharged with c-diff.
    The drugs to treat the c-diff cost $5,600 and when I received a bill for some unknown “service” in addition to insurance payment, I asked for an itemized bill. To my dismay, I discovered that my insurance had been billed fraudulently. I requested a review of the charges 4 months ago but every time I call for the status of the review, I am told the “audit is still in progress”. Even though I am an RN, I was a helpless victim while ill.
    Thanks so much for all you do.

  2. Lizzie

    I missed this the weekend it was on, and absolutely had to listen! I ended up finding that my pain was a bone-on-bone right hip situation–never had had a clue! The orthopedic surgeon did tell me it was ‘a $50,000 surgery,’ which it turns out that 80% of people in his field don’t even know (according to a recent article I saw).
    I know that the ‘part’ is sold to hospitals for around $450. Got the bill the other day (receive 1-2 every week from either anesthesiology, the hospital, the medical group, the lab, or pathology) and my local, Wisconsin hospital, charged around 6 dollars less than $13,000. And, I know that I’m far more knowledgeable than most Americans, as I worked with Medicare/Advantage for 5 years. It’s all unreal!

  3. SSPinyan

    Usually doctors have hospital privileges at a particular hospital. How would a patient be able to select a hospital if that patient would be under a particular doctor’s care? Currently, I see a doctor who believes the patient should take responsibly for knowing his/her needs and acting accordingly. This program was useful in encouraging patients to ask for adequate information for more self care. S.S.Pinyan

  4. BobK

    Amen. My own experience was when I had sharp pains in my back side. Pretty much thought it was a kidney stone as it runs in the family but went to the emergency room since this was on a weekend and my PC Doc was closed.
    The ER receptionist said after listening to me said “Sounds like you are passing a kidney stone.”
    The triage nurse took my vitals and said “Sounds like you are passing a kidney stone.”
    The nures in the room said “Sounds like you are passing a kidney stone.”
    Doctor enters the room and said “Sounds like you are passing a kidney stone.”
    Technician enters and says “Sounds like you are passing a kidney stone. We will do a couple CAT scans to get the size.”
    Got a prescription and that was it. Got the bill which was $5500. I should have just gone with the recepionist’s diagnosis and quit there. I was told that I needed the CAT scan because an ultrasound won’t resolve anything smaller than 5 mm stones.
    This turned out to be not true as later in the year I had an ultrasound exam that picked up a second stone which after passing it turned out to be 3 mm.
    The system is definitely broken and has to be fixed.

  5. Mr2Styx

    Today was one of the rare times I was able to listen to the show and I am so glad that I was able to. So much here to think about, so much that is immediately useful in terms of waking up to the necessity of doing the research, of providing one’s own kinds of oversight, to keep ourselves and our loved ones as safe as possible in the user-nonfriendly world of American medicine. Thanks for the great work.

  6. SWP

    Excellent program! Really resonated w/ me b/c I attempted to get pricing on a common hernia operation to no avail. The hospital AND the doctor’s office did not disclose the cost.
    Additionally, I could not locate any ‘quality of care’ metrics, and eventually had to rely on my own Internet research to make an informed decision.
    When I attempted to ask questions or get statistics, I was given (verbal) generically vague answers or the run-around. I was not feeling like an empowered, well-informed, educated patient. If not for the Internet, I could only rely on hearsay, word-of-mouth, subjective opinions of people I did not know (due to move).
    The healthcare system desperately needs the changes espoused in today’s program, and I hope to see & experience more transparency & accountability in the near future.

  7. sk

    Well done. Well said. Praise to everyone who had a part in this program. I am confident that it will save lives.

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