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"America's Bitter Pill" author Steven Brill on Obamacare

Steven Brill, who has spent years investigating the health care industry and the creation of Obamacare, joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss his new book, "America's Bitter Pill"
"America's Bitter Pill": Behind Obamacare, healthcare costs 06:18

As the country enters its second year of Affordable Care Act, the government said more than 6.5 million people signed up for 2015 coverage through the federal website.

Coverage is expanding, but so are costs. The deductible for the least expensive plan is $100 higher than 2014, and the average premium for private insurance rose 3 percent.

"We're paying a lot more for everything because we have this naive assumption that healthcare can be a marketplace when everyone of us sitting here knows that when we're sick, we're not a savvy consumer of healthcare," said Steven Brill, author of "America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System."

"We have no idea what we are buying, we have no idea what the cost is going to be, we have no control over those costs, and the only thing we know is, we're scared and we want to get better."

Brill, who has spent years investigating the healthcare industry and the creation of the Affordable Care Act, said Obamacare has made healthcare more accessible for Americans; but the overall cost of healthcare has not gone down as the president said would happen.

"It's because of the legislation," Brill said. "There's nothing in the legislation that brings down the cost of healthcare."

In addition, pilot projects trying to bring healthcare costs down were unsuccessful because of lobbyists.

"At every turn, when they tried to do something substantive to bring the cost down, such as control the price of drugs, deal with exorbitant non-profit hospitals' high profits, they were stopped by the lobbyists," Brill said.

"And the best test of all this is, the only way that a bill this big will pass in Washington is that the powers that be decide that it should pass. So the drug companies are making more money, the hospitals are making more money, the medical device makers are making more money, and everybody's happy except the tax payer."

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a total of $177 million was spent on pharmaceutical and healthcare lobbying.

"It can only get better when people decide, that as healthcare consumers and taxpayers, they're not going to let the lobbyists in Washington for the hospital industry, for the drug industry, for the medical device industry, have their way. And that's a difficult thing," Brill said.

Brill also spoke from personal experience. As he was finishing the writing of his book, he had an open heart surgery. His bill in 8 days came out to over $200,000, including costs for the surgery, room and board, blood tests, x-rays and medication.

"What I learned was that I didn't care about the costs at the moment I was lying on the gurney. And nobody would. You will beg, borrow and steal, whatever you have to to get the money, to get yourself healthy or to get your loved one healthy," Brill said.

He said he also learned that insurance companies have very little leverage.

Brill recounted an experience after his surgery, which he called "emblematic of just how screwed up the system is." While interviewing the CEO of UnitedHealthcare, Brill asked him to explain his explanation of benefits, or EOB, where the amount billed was zero, but it showed that Brill owed $154.

"He looked at it, and he looked at it, and he said, 'I could sit here all day and I couldn't explain that to you. I don't know why they sent that to you.' And I said, 'Well, aren't you 'they'?'" Brill said.

In a statement, UnitedHealth Group Vice President of Communications Tyler Mason said, "...we work every day to provide consumers the information they need to make personally appropriate health care decisions in ways that make sense to them."

While Brill's new book is about healthcare, Brill said it's more about "how the country doesn't work" at its core.

"[The book] uses the largest and most screwed up industry in the country to illustrate that we can't do the nation's business in Washington," Brill said.

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