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The seemingly unseemly prices charged by some hospitals

Even study authors of a research effort focused upon hospital charges across the country concede that medical facility administrators need to jack up their prices a bit to remain economically viable.

But 10 times the cost of services? By any ethical standard, isn't that beyond the pale?

And what about the consequences to consumers? The breath-taking price tag slapped on to medical care at many American hospitals "often leads to personal bankruptcy or the avoidance of needed medical services," states an article discussing the above-cited study.

Who are the worst offenders?

Empirical evidence quite unequivocally points to for-profit facilities.

Consider this: Although only about three of every 10 hospitals across the United States is a for-profit facility, a stunning 98 percent of the 50 hospitals with the highest markups on services are for-profit companies. The study lists one Arkansas hospital -- National Park Medical Center -- on the top-50 list.

Sadly, and unsurprisingly, it is already comparatively challenged consumers and debtors who are reportedly bearing the brunt of egregious pricing mechanisms.

Many of those individuals and their families do not have employer-sponsored health insurance or any insurance at all. When they get a bill, it often features a dramatically spiked -- and nonnegotiable -- bill that is much higher than in cases where a consumer has the benefit of an insurer interceding with a provider to knock down the price.

The researchers say that state and federal lawmakers need to step up and take a strong stand against medical price gouging. There is no federal legislation addressing hospital pricing, and only two states reportedly control markups.

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