Data: Whaley, et al., 2020, "Nationwide Evaluation of Health Care Prices Paid by Private Health Plans"; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Employers and private insurers paid hospitals, on average, 247% of what Medicare paid for the same services in 2018, per a new RAND study.

Why it matters: We all pay for this giant gap in prices through our premiums and lost wages.

The big picture: The price gap has been growing, with private insurers paying hospitals 224% of Medicare rates in 2016 and 230% in 2017. In 2018, prices were 267% of Medicare for outpatient services and 231% for inpatient services.

Between the lines: Prices varied drastically by location and by health system. Some states, including New York and Florida, paid more than 300% of Medicare rates, on average.

  • The most expensive system, John Muir Health, had prices that were 401.5% of Medicare. Sutter Health, which has settled a lawsuit brought by the state of California accusing the hospital system of price-gouging, was paid 326.6% of Medicare.
  • HCA Healthcare, one of the largest hospital systems, had prices that were 275.8% of Medicare. Community Health Network, another large health system that has continued to sue patients in coronavirus hotspots, was paid 260% of Medicare rates.

The other side: Hospitals have long argued that private insurance subsidizes inadequate government payment rate, and that they must charge privately insured patients more to make ends meet.

The bottom line: Hospitals make up the largest portion of overall health care spending. The pandemic may have momentarily distracted us from health care costs, but they're still high, and the pandemic's economic fallout has only made them more unaffordable for many Americans.

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Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 21, 2020 - Health

Studies show drop in COVID death rate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There's been a sharp drop in mortality rates among hospitalized coronavirus patients, including older patients and those with pre-existing health conditions, per two new peer-reviewed studies.

By the numbers: One study that looked at a single health system found that hospitalized patients had a 25.6% chance of dying at the start of the pandemic, but now have only a 7.6% chance, NPR reports.

Post-debate poll finds Biden strong on every major issue

Joe Biden speaks Friday about "The Biden Plan to Beat COVID-19," at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This is one of the bigger signs of trouble for President Trump that we've seen in a poll: Of the final debate's seven topics, Joe Biden won or tied on all seven when viewers in a massive Axios-SurveyMonkey sample were asked who they trusted more to handle the issue.

Why it matters: In a time of unprecedented colliding crises for the nation, the polling considered Biden to be vastly more competent.