healthcare-billsHealthcare is becoming a costly commodity in the United States. The total healthcare spending in the United States is expected to reach $4.8 trillion by the year 2021. In fact, a report in the New York Times reveals that even for relatively small or common ailments you can incur huge hospital charges. According to new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the charges for some of the common inpatient procedures (such as treatment for pneumonia or digestive problems) increased in hospitals across the US in 2012 from a year earlier, at more than four times the national rate of inflation. The data demonstrated wide variations in what hospitals charge for the same type of procedures.

The data shows how dramatically healthcare costs can diverge from year-to-year. It includes bills submitted by around 3,300 hospitals nationwide in 2012 for the 100 most commonly performed procedures namely heart operations, hip replacement and gallbladder removal. For instance, the average hospital charges in the U.S. for a patient with chest pain increased by 10% between 2011 and 2012, to an average of $18,505.

Hospital expenses vary significantly for the same procedures within the same metropolitan areas. Experts in the healthcare domain significantly differ about the meaning of hospital charges. Medicare beneficiaries or people who hold commercial insurance will negotiate hospital charges down and end up paying lesser amount. On the other hand, people without health insurance pay higher costs for care when inexpensive options are available. Nearly everyone who seeks healthcare ends up paying inflated prices in one form or another.

Experts say that these significant price variations impose a harsh burden on the estimated 49 million Americans who are not insured. The rising costs of drugs and technology, decline in the number of patient admissions in hospitals and leveling out of reimbursements from Medicare can be some of the prominent causes behind this major surge in hospital charges.

For most inpatient visits, Medicare increased their payment rates by only 1% between the year 2011 and 2012. The total number of patients admitted for chest pain plummeted more than 28,000 to 107,224 in 2012 and inpatients with digestive disorders decreased more than 29,000, to 217,514. In order to reduce the overall healthcare costs, hospitals have been encouraged to admit fewer patients for conditions like asthma, for instance, and promote less expensive outpatient care.

Unexpected or surging medical bills continue to be a main cause of financial ruin for American families. In most cases, the low income group or uninsured people are subject to high debt collection by hospitals when their illness results in medical bills that they cannot pay. Experts say that the public accessibility of hospital charges may bring in fundamental changes in pricing or spare uninsured patients from exorbitant bills.