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Salt in the wound, the cost of healthcare

You've heard of saline solution. It's a fancy name for salt and water. You've probably used it--maybe for a sore throat, or dry eyes--and you probably haven't

You've heard of saline solution. It's a fancy name for salt and water. You've probably used it--maybe for a sore throat, or dry eyes--and you probably haven't spent that much money on it.

Here's a pretty simple bottle of saline solution we got at a Manhattan grocery store for five dollars and 99 cents.

Here's some souped-up saline solution with a bunch of other chemicals in it for red eyes. This was $6.99.

If you just want a no-fuss no-muss saline solution, you can always make your own. Here's a liter of spring water, that cost $1.29. For every liter of water, you only need 9 grams of salt, that's less than 2 teaspoons. And there are over 40 teaspoons in this $1.35 container of Morton Salt.

Morton Salt, it turns out, is what they actually use in most of these.

This is an IV bag you'll see in hospitals. It's what they stick in your arm to re-hydrate you before, during and after most medical procedures.

The average wholesale cost is as low as 44 cents a bag. Which seems about right, given the fact that--as I noted--it's just salt and water.

But should you be unfortunate enough to encounter this packet of saline solution in its natural habitat of a hospital, and you sign for a hospital bill, you're going to pay a lot more than 44 cents.

If you think you'll pay something closer to $4.44, sorry, it's more than that.

How about $44.00? Remember it's for this--this thing!

Nope, not $44.00. No, a one liter bag of saline solution could run you about $91.00. And if you need six bags like a recent patient at a New York hospital, that's $546. Those details come from this shocking article in The New York Times today.

At White Plains Hospital, a patient with private insurance from Aetna was charged $91.00 for one unit of Hospira IV that cost the hospital 86 cents.

A hospital spokeswoman defended the markup as "consistent with industry standards." She said it reflected "not only the cost of the solution but a variety of related services and processes," like procurement, biomedical handling and storage, all of which apparently was not included in a charge of $127 for just administering the IV and $893.00 for emergency-room services.

This report is just the latest in a series from The New York Times about the everyday, mundane outrage in the pricing of medical procedures here in the United States of America.

A previous report featured this guy, who flew to Belgium--there and back--to get a full hip replacement. The whole thing,$13,660, which is nothing compared to the nearly $80,000 the procedure would have cost him out-of-pocket in the US. That's for an artificial hip that costs about $350.00 to make.

And then there's the fact that the cost of childbirth in the United States is more than twice as much as other developed nations. It's because in the US, all the charges for childbirth are broken out, meaning more bills and higher costs.

Just keep all of this in mind when people talk about Obamacare implementation and scream about Socialism and a government takeover. We are trying to move--slowly, incrementally--toward a system that's sane. But as long as the price in the American health care system is $546.00 for six of these, the system is still broken.

And you know the reason they can't just charge those kinds of exorbitant rates in places like Belgium? The government simply prohibits it.

As Obamacare implementation rolls out, it won't take long for it become clear that the problem isn't that it's a government takeover of healthcare.

It's that it's not enough of one.