A Major TV Show Just Exposed the Biggest Flaw in Obamacare

January 12th 2015

ATTN: Staff

Author Steven Brill has written a book seeking to produce a definitive assessment of Obamacare.

One of his major conclusions? 

The law does little to control the growing costs of health care.

"It doesn't do anything on medical malpractice reform. It doesn't do anything to control drug prices. It doesn't do anything to control hospital profits," Brill told 60 Minutes earlier this week.


Why not? According to Brill, major lobbying efforts by the industries that benefit from the current system proved to be the biggest obstacle to cost control. His report says that the White House was warned by experts that attacking costs would effectively kill any chance at passing a health care law.

"[If you go] after cost, you're never going to get anything passed because the lobbyists will not allow it be passed."

A major problem with the status quo, according to 60 Minutes, is that hospitals can charge whatever they want for medical services.

The 60 Minutes piece received pushback from some who say this it ignored what the cost controls that Obamacare's did create. Dan Diamond, writing in Forbes, pointed out that there are a number of provisions in the law aimed at cost:

For instance, the health law has encouraged hundreds of hospitals to create accountable care organizations and participate in bundled payment pilots, which are two kinds of reforms designed to make hospitals and doctors more responsible to deliver high-quality care. They’re not all successful, but they’re helping federal health officials try and figure out what actually works to control cost rather than insist the entire industry adopt untested models.

While it's clear Obamacare did take some steps on cost, it's fair to say we've got a long way to go to lower the price of healthcare in America. The 60 Minutes piece is helpful for illuminating ares where there is still work to be done. One example Brill cites is a medical bill that charged the patient $1.50 for one generic Tylenol pill, way above the price you'd expect for something so basic.

"You can buy hundreds of them for that price," Brill said. 

That same bill saw more inflated costs, such as 400% mark-ups on PET scan or a 1,100% mark-ups on CAT scans. The patient was charged almost $1,800 a day for his hospital room.

"You and I need to get into this's a good business," Brill joked with 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl.

Especially considering the hospitals making this money are technically non-profits, which means they don't pay taxes. The report discussed a medical center in Pittsburgh where seven executives make more than $2 million dollars.