I’m a professional managed care contract negotiator for a major health system in the US who also teaches health administration classes at a local university. Let me try to be comprehensive:
There’s a difference between what’s price and cost. Hospital prices are what hospitals charge for a service. Like any other business, charges include the direct costs (supplies, clinician time, etc.) and indirect costs (power bill, departmental overhead, etc.). Included in the indirect cost is always an amount to cover uncompensated care. This is cost incurred by people who can’t or don’t pay their bills, and it’s re-allocated into future pricing, creating inflated charges, which are reported as the “price” for healthcare services in the media and quoted by politicians. edit In addition, government programs with set payment systems (i.e Medicare, Medicaid) often cover some, but not all of the direct cost of care. This too is passed on in the pricing.