10 Wildly Overinflated Hospital Costs

A Tylenol pill for $15? Or $53 per pair of gloves? Here, a medical billing advocate reveals some of the crazy costs of some very basic medical goods.

View as Slideshow

Why exactly are our medical bills so high?

Why exactly are our medical bills so high?
Investigative journalist Steven Brill explored this in a recent, hot-button Time magazine cover story. After spending seven months analyzing hundreds of bills from hospitals, doctors, drug companies, and medical equipment manufacturers, he discovered that health care costs are largely arbitrary, inflated, and unfair. “The health care market is not a market at all. It’s a crapshoot,” he concluded. “Everyone fares differently based on circumstances they can neither control nor predict.”

In our own investigation last year, Reader’s Digest learned that it pays to try to get to the bottom of your medical bills because they’re subject to more errors and overcharges than you might think. Here, Pat Palmer, founder of Medical Billing Advocates of America, a group that helps patients handle medical bills, reveals examples of ridiculous overcharges on a patient’s itemized bill (which you usually need to ask for—and review with a fine-toothed comb).

Tylenol

Tylenol
Charge to patient: $15 per individual pill, for a total of $345 during average patient stay

Patient belonging bag

Patient belonging bag
Like a grocery bag, to hold your personal items

Charge to patient: $8

Box of tissues

Box of tissues
Sometimes listed as “mucus recovery system”

Charge to patient: $8

Content continues below ad

Gloves

Gloves
Charge to patient: $53 per non-sterile pair (sterile are higher), for a total of $5,141 during average patient stay

Cup medicine

Cup medicine
Cost is for the plastic cup used to administer medicine, not the actual medicine inside it

Charge to patient, per cup: $10, for a total of $440 during average patient stay

Marking pen

Marking pen
To mark the body for surgery

Charge to patient: $17.50

Cuff, BP Adult

Cuff, BP Adult
Use of blood pressure cuff

Charge to patient: $20

Content continues below ad

Oral admin. fee

Oral admin. fee
Charge for nurse to hand you medicine taken by mouth

Charge to patient: $6.25 per instance, for a total of $87.50 during average patient stay

Headlight

Headlight
Cost of use of overhead light in operating room

Charge to patient: $93.50

Swabs, alcohol

Swabs, alcohol
Charge to patient: $23 per swab, for a total of $322 during average patient stay

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram

@kristencarney

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.

@sixthformpoet

Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”

@NicCageMatch

Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 
—Alcohol

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.