Medicine: No-Frills Hospitals

Few expenses have climbed faster —or higher—than hospital care. The cost of a semiprivate room in a typical U.S. hospital is now more than $113 a day, three times as high as a decade ago. In some metropolitan areas, such as New York City, Washington and Los Angeles, semiprivate-room rates have risen above $200. Most hospital officials agree that the greatest single factor in this inflationary increase has been higher salaries for long-neglected employees, whose wages now account for 70% of hospital costs.

Learning to Cope. In an economy move similar to the airlines'...

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