The Health Care Economist Is In


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On today's Planet Money:

You've seen those crazy-looking medical bills, the ones with row after row of prices and treatment codes. How about one that says the service cost $1,200, except your insurer paid $400 and you the patient owe nothing? Where did that other money go?

Doctor bills are complicated enough to make you go looking for a Harvard health care economist. Which is just what we did. Today, professor Joseph Newhouse fields your questions.

Bonus: In Canada, the clinics look shabby but there are no co-pays.

Download the podcast; or subscribe. Intro music: Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Flickr.

On the podcast Wednesday, we asked which country's health care system you'd move for, if you could.

Russell Cobb writes from Edmonton, Alberta:

I actually did transport myself, from the U.S. to Canada, a little over a year ago.

I've got to say, the US debate about health care reform is pretty mystifying from North of the border. I went from having some crappy high-deductible plan that I didn't really understand to having full coverage from the government. To me, there's really no debate at all. The Canadian system is just much more humane and effective.

That said... it's kind of shocking for an American to visit Canadian clinics. They are run very cheaply. Many won't even pay for new magazines in the waiting room. They look like they were last remodeled in 1977, with wood paneling and orange carpet. It's tough to find a family doctor and there's a shortage of nurses. But nothing beats running down to the local Medicentre because you feel a cold or flu coming on. You see a doc within half an hour and when you're done, you walk out the door. No co-pays, no credit cards — just slightly higher taxes!



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