$15,000 for a knee-icing machine?

To the editor: David Lazarus' column on a knee-surgery patient's bill of more than $15,000 for a cooling machine that he didn't have to pay for after a prior operation casts a much-needed light into the darkness of health insurance companies. ("Same surgery, different price: Patient gets $15,000 bill second time," Column, July 3)

One of the most astounding aspects of this case was not even discussed: The amount of money charged to rent a cooling machine is absurdly high. How can an equipment company possibly justify billing Anthem Blue Cross more than $15,000 for a few weeks of renting?


This points out why medical care in America costs so much and provides so little for the money. We are No. 1 in the world in health expenditures but were ranked 37th by the World Health Organization in 2000 in the quality of our health system.

Shame on the pharmaceutical and equipment companies, as well as insurance companies, that take us all for a ride.

Susan E. Sklar, MD, Long Beach


To the editor: The patient was billed more than $15,000 for using a cooling machine. I bought my cooling machine last year for $275.

This year I needed another knee surgery, for which I again used the ice machine previously purchased. I paid $50 for a new (sterile) knee pad and three Velcro wraps.

My concern is that Medicare and private insurance companies are being billed more than $15,000 for this machine. Obviously the patient, at 64, is not old enough to qualify for Medicare, because the machine is covered by Medicare for knee-replacement surgeries.

But if insurance companies, including Anthem and Medicare, are getting billed this much, it is beyond outrageous. That inflated billing must be stopped. Thanks to Lazarus for his investigative journalism.

Diane Baker, Corona del Mar