Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, is leading a series of roundtable talks with “lawmakers and other public officials” to solve upcoming problems in Maine caused by “powerful demographic forces.”

The high, unaffordable cost of health care should dominate those discussions. “High medical costs in Maine are destroying the Maine economy,” according to Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, D-Bangor.

Most large hospitals in Maine are organized as charitable nonprofits, but they are operated like profit-making businesses, as evidenced by executive performance based compensation that includes bonus pay for patient volume.

Hospital executives in Maine are paid on average more than $480,000, and some more than $1 million, according to the Bangor Daily News. Those egregious compensations were paid during 2011 without regard for the likely impact the recession was having on patient volumes that ultimately led to layoffs.

Those million-dollar compensations have a lot to do with inflated billing that can often be 500 percent or more than what Medicare pays. Medicare tends to pay “reasonable and customary” and not the marked-up billings paid by private insurance.

Those absurdly high markups are a root cause of the high cost of health care. “No other industry can justify charging markups of 500 percent,” says Jason Beans, CEO of Rising Medical Solutions.

Hospitals operate much like monopolies with little competition. Eves and his group will not be able do much to solve the negative impact on Maine’s economy caused by the astronomically high cost of health care unless.

Legislation is desperately needed to bring down inflated prescription drug prices to be in line with those paid in other developed nations. If this group doesn’t have the ability to think outside the box, we can expect more of the same old rhetoric about unaffordable health care.

Jim Chiddix

Waterville

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