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Column: Rising health care costs out of touch with reality

When our longtime family doctor retired in the early 1960s, he was, according to my mother, charging the same amount for an office visit as he did in the 1930s when she and my father first became his patients. I always thought that was a bit of an exaggeration, and it probably was, but not much of one. The routine visit still hadn’t reached $10.

The health care cost comparisons of yesterday and today were brought home sharply by the discovery of the obstetric bills for the birth of my first two children two years apart in 1961 and 1963. The charges for pre- and postnatal care were a whopping $160 for my son and $150 for my daughter. The $10 difference for the boy was for a surgical procedure. Combined with a three-day stay in the hospital for their mother, the total for each was $300. Wow, that much!

A friend told me that, as a 16-year-old, he would drive his doctor father on his house calls, many in poorer neighborhoods in their New England city. Before they would start out, the father would stop at a local store and load up the car with groceries that met the dietary requirements of his patients who couldn’t afford them. Rural patients, my friend said, often paid in produce and eggs and so forth.

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