Who needs the television show? The attorney for the big hospitals in North Carolina suggests that he would pay $310 for chicken piccata if the restaurant’s atmosphere warranted it, or so suggests a recent News and Observer article about a patient suing Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) in Charlotte.
The North Carolina Hospital Association and other big hospital systems have jumped in to argue before the North Carolina Supreme Court, through James Fuller’s voice, that price transparency has no place in a hospital bill.
The Charlotte plaintiff completely disagrees. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, Robert Talford has demanded that CMC explain why the cardiac drug that he received in hospital cost twenty four (24) times what he could buy it for at the local pharmacy. The NC Court of Appeals has previously ruled that CMC should have to itemize its bill and explain why it is reasonable. The $14,419 bill also included a one-day room cost of $5,556. Must have been a nice room.
Fuller, formerly a trial attorney dedicated to representing the poor and downtrodden, seems to have adjusted to representing the biggest hospital system in the state and talking about chicken piccata. And while there are reasons that hospitals must cost shift some care of the indigent to its paying customers, there is no reason that the hospital’s pricing should not be transparent and reasonable. Otherwise, its pricing is just a hidden tax and not pegged to any true value. And all of this obfuscation, of course, explains why no one understands what our healthcare costs or why. Just pay up, the hospitals appear to be arguing, because we are doing good things with your money.
None of this impugns the first class treatment that the plaintiff or others get at CMC. The hospital argues that, “this is a case about the necessarily high cost of the best care in the world.” But applying that same logic and the twenty-four multiple to Mr. Fuller’s piece of chicken, which cost $12.95 at Carmine’s in Chapel Hill NC, makes $310 a “reasonable” price for a “world-class” piece of chicken piccata.
And if you believe that proposition, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that needs selling.
Chicken Piccata courtesy of Life’s Ambrosia