America’s biggest industry by far

From the review of Steven Brill’s new book:

“Healthcare,” he writes, “is America’s largest industry by far.” It employs “a sixth of the country’s workforce. And it is the average American family’s largest single expense, whether paid out of their pockets or through taxes and insurance premiums.” He estimates that the health insurance companies employ about 1.5 million people, roughly twice the number of practicing physicians. Hospital executives preside over lucrative businesses, whether nominally nonprofit or not, and are paid huge salaries, even while they charge patients obscene prices (Brill cites $77 for a box of gauze pads) drawn from “what they called their ‘chargemaster,’ which was the menu of list prices they used to soak patients who did not have Medicare or private insurance.” He tells us that the CEO of New York–Presbyterian Hospital, where he had major surgery shortly after his article appeared in Time, had an income of $3.58 million. And finally, he gives us the really bad news: “All that extra money produces no better, and in many cases worse, results.”