Sam Bauman: Health care costs high; tips to use



I get letters. Most are fun and informative, some not so nice. Most recent reads:

“In last Sunday’s NV Appeal there was an article about Phyllis Brewer who recently celebrated her 103rd birthday. I wonder if she is the oldest person in Carson City? Do you know? Asking that question in one of your columns might bring the answer. Mary Bangert, Carson City.”

Well, good question and I don’t know how to answer it unless someone writes me a note. Don’t think the city has such information, so we’ll try it this way. Send to Sam Bauman, c/o Nevada Appeal Editor, 580 Mallory Way, Carson City, NV, 89701 or email

Cost of health care

Consumer Reports magazine, published by he nonprofit Consumer Union, is a good source for information about everything from refrigerators to new cars. I also often publishes articles about health costs, and in the November issue it ran a long piece under the heading “It’s Time to Get Mad about the Outrageous Cost of Health Care.”

Since seniors are undoubtedly the biggest customers of health care, I thought it might be to share some of the information in the article.

It quickly points out that health care in the United States, “costs about twice as much as in the rest of the developed world ... in fact, if our $3 trillion healthcare sector were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest economy.

Here’s an example of other nation’s costs for similar procedures:

The drug Geevac, $6,214 in U.S., $3,633 in Switzerland.

MRI, $1,145 in U.S., $138 in Switzerland.

Heart bypass in U.S. $75,345, $36,509 in Switzerland.

Consumer Reports also studied health insurance and ranked plans by state. Using the National Committee for Quality Assurance, here’s how Nevada stacked up (all are HMOs):

Saint Mary’s Health First scored 80; Altius HealthPlans second at 79 and Aetna Health (out of Pennsylvania) also 79. None of Nevada’s plans scored well in the “avoiding over use” category.

One way we all can help hold health cost down is by examining the form that Medicare sends out detailing fees and procedures. Often providers bill for non-performed services. A cautionary note here: don’t be surprised if you see an entry from a doctor in Colorado that you never heard of. This is often the result of an emergency room doctor working here but farming his billing work to a remote low-cost accounting firm.

Some money news

Here are some items from Consumer Report that we all can use:

Best airline when you have to switch a flight: Southwest lets you change itinerary at not cost, vs. 24 hours notice from other airlines.

Best returns policies: Lands End for any reason; Nordstrom offers free shipping and free returns on any order; Costco allows members to turn anything for any reason anytime, except for electronics which are limited to 90 days.

Best and worst airline on time arrivals: Hawaiian Airlines was best, Southwest Airlines the worst.

Sanest cell phone company, Consumer Cellular no-contract service. A surprise since it uses AT&T network.

Most bogus claim for foods: “natural.” Means nothing whatsoever.

Weight lost strategy supplements, including garcinia cambogia, there’s little evidence that they work, despite selling $2.4 billion supplements.

Skip COBRA plan. Used to be important when you lost a job and needed health care. But thanks to health care reform you can usually do better shopping around and also enjoy tax credits.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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