TV hospital advertising doesn't make sense

In our household we watch primarily PBS and get local news from the major networks and, of course, enjoy University of Connecticut women's basketball.

My recollection is that hospital TV advertising in Connecticut started with the Smilow Center at Yale-New Haven with their catchy song about being free. Then we started seeing ads from Middlesex, Hartford, St Francis, UConn Medical Center, The Hospital of Central Connecticut and now our own Lawrence + Memorial.

Do hospitals worry that they are losing customers to other hospitals because the other hospitals are advertising on TV? When you consider the outrageous prices hospitals charge (we had bills of over a $1,000 each for three X-rays of my wife's arm and for the removal of two ticks from hard to reach spots on my body), and that generating TV commercials as well as having them played on all the networks (repeatedly) is expensive, one has to wonder if this is a good public service. Is competition via TV commercials lowering the cost of health care?

Do we really want people selecting hospitals based on upbeat commercials, or would we not be better off having our doctors providing their informed advice on where we should be treated?

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