National / International News
The troops would beef up the effort to train more Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State. Some 3,000 American troops are already in Iraq to provide security or to train and advice Iraqi troops.
Interest rates in Germany rose to their highest since late last summer. Is the German economy gaining some steam? We explore. And a new study sheds light on how hospitals make their money. We look at why not all patients are created (or at least billed) equally. Plus, with Etsy's shares tanking, we take a look at what's behind this, especially considering the hype of their recent IPO.
A new Johns Hopkins University study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs says that a number of mostly for-profit hospitals are charging certain groups of patients ten times the rates paid out to Medicare for the same procedures.
The key thing to understand in the realm of hospital pricing is negotiation, or rather, the lack of negotiation.
At hospitals, there’s a price that Medicare pays for its patients, and then there’s the list price charged to everyone else, usually about three times higher.
Dr. Gerard Anderson, director of the Johns Hopkins Center of Hospital Finance and Management and coauthor of the study, says some hospitals mark up their prices about ten times, and some are stuck with that sticker price "because the auto insurers and the workers' compensation insurers are not able to negotiate prices."
And that means higher workers' compensation and automobile premiums for everyone else. The study says this also pushes up costs for everyone else because hospitals can say they’re regularly underpaid when negotiating prices.
Jarrod Bernstein is spokesperson for CarePoint Health, which owns CarePoint Health Bayonne Medical Center in Bayonne, N.J., which is the second most expensive hospital on the top 50 list published in the study. Bernstein says CarePoint's prices are a result of serving many low-income customers. "Being out of network is not a business strategy, it is a survival strategy," Bernstein says.
CarePoint is calling for an overhaul of the healthcare reimbursement system. In the meantime, its hospital’s list price for treating pneumonia is about $200,000, while Medicare pays out just under $10,000.
As early as this week, the Labor Department will consider updating overtime laws. Currently, salaried workers are eligible for overtime only if they are paid less than $23,660 a year, or $455 a week. The new rules would bump that threshold to as much as $52,000.
The new rules would affect workers with low salaries who now put in long hours with no overtime. Arindrajit Dube, associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, points to the example of a shift supervisor at McDonald’s.
“She is hardly someone we think of as an executive employee, but the law does not require McDonald’s to pay her overtime even if she works 50 hours a week,” he says.
Dube says what seems like a huge jump in the overtime threshold simply brings things up to 1975 standards, adjusting for inflation. The effect?
“We’re talking about as many as 10 million workers getting a raise,” Dube says.
A National Retail Federation report says the change could cost businesses $5 billion a year. But Stephen Trejo, economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says employers will make adjustments, like cutting straight-time pay.
“There’s not going to be pressure on firms to raise their wages,” he says.
He adds that workers might be better off in the short term, but it might just even out in the long term.