February 24th, 2010
11:05 AM ET

Morning Buzz: That screw costs how much??

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Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

The White House is getting ready to hold a televised bipartisan health care summit tomorrow.  Earlier this week the Obama Administration introduced a health care compromise plan that calls for the regulation of excessive rate hikes by health insurers. The $950 billion, 10-year health care proposal looks similar to a bill passed by the Senate last year but revises some of its most contentious provisions, from taxes to Medicare. The bill would require every American to have some sort of health insurance and would provide subsidies to low-income families to afford it.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released this morning indicates that two-thirds of Americans think the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to cooperate with President Obama. The survey also shows that the public thinks the Democrats should be the ones to take the first step toward bipartisan cooperation. What do you think? What kind of consensus do you hope lawmakers to reach tomorrow?

Speaking of health care, tonight we take a look at America’s out of control health care costs as part of our series on Broken Government. The costs of the U.S. health care system keep climbing. Improving access to insurance may be the easy part, but more insurance doesn’t necessarily mean lower costs. In the political and public debate on health care are we focusing too much on coverage and not enough on prices? Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us inside an operating room to point out the nearly comical prices of everything – from a one-inch metal back screw (price tag $10,000) to a stapler ($3000) to an IV bag of saline for $288! Why do the supplies cost so much? Should the real reform be focused on reining in the price-gouging?

And today the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will grill officials on Toyota's sudden-acceleration problems. The hearing will examine the Federal government's response to the Toyota recall, and gain a better understanding of the nature of the sudden acceleration problem in Toyota vehicles and what should be done about it. The second panel hearing will feature the much-anticipated appearance of Toyota's President, Aiko Toyoda. How do you think he’ll respond?

As the hearings take place on the Hill, questions are being raised about how much the NHTSA knew about Toyota's problems and when. Critics charge the Agency is understaffed and under-funded, and they are simply not equipped to deal with problems like Toyota. In fact, because they rely on all the automakers to bring problems to their attention can they be an effective consumer watch dog agency? We’re digging deeper tonight.

We’re also reporting on Toyota’s retention of Exponent, a California engineering firm, to conduct an analysis of Toyota and Lexus vehicles for concerns related to unintended acceleration. Exponent's research has come under fire from critics, including engineers, attorneys and academics who say the company tends to deliver to clients the reports they need to mount a public defense. We’re keeping them honest tonight.

And Gary Tuchman is in Haiti where he reports on how difficult it is for many family members to reunite after the earthquake. He profiles one woman who spent a week searching for her son after the 7.0-magnitude devastated the country. She finally learned that he had been transported to a hospital in Northern Haiti where he remains today. Now, weeks after he was airlifted to safety, she has been unable to get him back. The hospital says it needs permission to release him but without documents to establish kinship, they remain stuck in what many refer to as a “bureaucratic nightmare.” Don’t miss Gary’s report tonight.

What else are you following? Let us know and see you at 10 p.m. ET!

Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. David in SC

    As was mentioned by the commentator (Richard Clark) in Dr. Gupta’s piece, what is billed by the hospital is not what is paid on behalf of the patient by insurance or Medicare, and definitely not what is paid by the patient. The price on the bill is never what is paid by the patient, even by those individuals without insurance.

    Dr. Gupta indicated that the COST of the Operating Room is about $3000 per hour. That is what it costs the HOSPITAL to provide the room for a surgical case. These costs include the cost of technicians, nurses, supply personnel, and a number of other clinical support staff who do not bill the patient separately for their services, as well as much of the equipment, supplies, and instruments that are not part of the patient's billing.

    The highest overall expense for hospitals is clinical personnel salaries (professionals who work directly with patients). However, as a procurement professional in a non-profit health care organization who previously worked in for-profit business, I can tell you that the companies who provide the supplies, services, and equipment for hospitals have been unduly enriched over the years by charging outlandish pricing to health care facilities, often increasing their prices 7% to 9% annually when private industry suppliers are fortunate to get 2% or 3%.

    It is evident when the sales reps who sell to the surgeons and the hospitals live in the same high-end neighborhoods as the surgeons themselves that something is wrong with this picture. The lure of big money attracts the most aggressive, intelligent, and sometimes unethical sales reps in the country. However vigilant we are with these programs, there are always clever and deceitful sales people who will attempt to circumvent the systems in place to get their products sold to health care facilities they perceive have deep pockets.

    And for those folks who believe that non-profit hospitals have deep pockets, our system achieved about 1% net income in 2009, which is considered good for a year in which a large percentage of hospitals operated in negative territory.

    There is more to this picture than can be covered in a single television program, and certainly more than a less than three minute video by Dr. Gupta. The conversation needs to continue to provide understanding to our leaders and to the American people, or the problems will never be corrected.

    February 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  2. Julie

    The Japanese Mr. toyoda, was very effiective. No one wants to make a product that harms the people purchasing a product. Human error is just human error. No one is God.
    With all the texting going on, and phones gong on, how does anyone know what happened to the people that died?

    February 24, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  3. K. Borgwardt

    Ask them if the $10K screw was made in America or in sweatshops outside of America.

    February 24, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  4. Linda Dale

    It's a shame that Toyota should come under fire for doing the right thing. Instead of quietly replacing accelerators as cars came in for service, they did a mass recall to ensure that ALL cars were safe.

    Most of the parts used in assembling Toyotas in Cambridge, ON are made in the United States. An attack on Toyota, and subsequent loss of confidence in an excellent company will affect these Americans who make parts – in an economy that can't afford to lose any more jobs.

    Why not come to Cambridge and talk to the people who make the cars? Why this adversarial approach to a problem that the company is doing their best to resolve?

    Is it because Toyota is not an "American" car company? Is it because Toyota manufactures cars in competition with American companies? Perhaps these companies should be asked how many of their car parts are made in the US.

    Toyota, with its American parts, may turn out to be quite "American" by contrast.

    Toyata's recall was a responsible action. They acted RESPONSIBLY.
    Why are they being dragged over the coals for it?

    February 24, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  5. Michelle D. Fonthill .Ont

    Good Morning Eliza

    Pres Obama should not give in to bi partasian ship .The GOP sisn't have the notion of bi partasian ship when they were in the White house for 8yrs . The reduction of rate hikes so that low icome families can afford the costs is going in the direction of helping people to have some insurance is postive . The adimsittartion needs to not back down and set this plan in motion there is too much interfernce . You can't afford to get sick anymore or even get treated i can't believe the rising costs for even the supplies it's outragous .

    Thanks for the buzz

    Michelle D.

    @Eliza Is Anderson back in the anchor chair tonight or is there a fill in again ?

    February 24, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  6. Vicky, Ottawa

    Good morning Eliza,

    Toyota hearings are making me more skeptical that my car will actually be safe, even if fixed as part of the recall. My first recall notice indicated a need for installation of an over-ride switch in case accelerator and brake are active at the same time. But second notice, only indicated need for change to accelerator and improving clearance for mat. Still waiting for actual parts to be available.

    Can't get the children of Haiti out of my thoughts, and am especially concerned about Monley Elize. After all he's survived, really want him to feel as safe as possible in his current situation. Have made enquiries with little success. Think I could get relief supplies to Haiti, but am stymied about whether it's possible to get them to the family. Hoping you could help or someone might have info. about possible means of doing this without disturbing family's right to privacy. If you contact me by e-mail, I could provide further contact info. if needed.

    February 24, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  7. Tim Gibson

    Does the back screw cost $10,000 or $950 billion? Both sides need to stop acting like the queen bee and work as a productive hive.

    As well, the worn out excuse of we are understaffed and do not have the funds and must rely on Little Johnny to tell us when he did something wrong. Our government conducts business like many failed families do it appears.

    It is time for the "teachers" in our government, who have not proven able to provide above a 7% average job performance to get the pink slips. This problem with Toyota, exactly how new in knowledge did we say it was?

    February 24, 2010 at 10:18 am |