The Cost of Trauma Care

When you work daily with Hospitals and reimbursement, there are certain misconstrued topics that infuriate you. When Healthcare Reform was being debated, I remember the strange look people would get when they would ask me the simple small talk question of “what do you think about healthcare reform,” and I would launch into a thirty minute lecture about the realities vs. what was being sold by the politicians and media. I felt the same feelings being aroused in me when I read Kari Huus’s piece on titled “ Iconic skier’s death points out the U.S. Health gap.” (

The article deals with the issue of deceased Skier Sarah Burke’s extreme medical bills for the nine days that Doctor’s in Utah fought against all odds to save her from a torn vertebral artery. The article highlights that Sarah, a Canadian citizen, would not owe anything if the accident had occurred in Canada, but since her accident occurred in the US, her family faces over $200,000.00 in medical debt.

Now I am not going to try and argue that there are not issues in the US Healthcare System. I realize that even with health insurance, catastrophic injuries and illnesses are basically bankrupting occurrences for most Americans. However, there are so many assumptions in this article that you categorically untrue! First and foremost, if this accident had happened in Canada, I would assert that Sarah Burke would have been dead on day one and not day nine. Based on what I know about the Canadian Healthcare system, and I don’t purport to be an expert, the type of life saving treatment delivered to Sarah in Utah just is not available. In addition, the Canadian System has a severe shortage of ICU beds; in fact, they frequently transfer patients to the US because they can not care for them. There would be no bill owed in Canada, because there would not be treatment of this nature rendered. While we can argue over the cost, I assure you every person reading this article would want everything possible done to save their 29 year old daughter or son!

Not to mention, the Hospital who provided this care will probably never see the $200,000.00 owed on this case. Or maybe they will, but only because this was a world famous wealthy skier, with as the article points out, a huge supportive fan base. However, in the real world, Hospital’s lose millions of dollars every year on trauma care. This care is the most expensive to deliver and very infrequently reimbursed. Yet when your loved one is injured, and that ambulance pulls up, there is a team of world class medical providers and state of the art equipment waiting to save them. I don’t know about you, but given the choice I would rather pull up in front of a Trauma Hospital in Utah than any hospital in Canada. Sure our Healthcare System has issues, but it still delivers some of the best Trauma care in the world. And yes there is a price for that!

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