What Cost More in 1983: A Hospital Stay or A Boombox?

Your life or your jams
What Cost More in 1983: A Hospital Stay or A Boombox?

Lets lay out a hypothetical situation. The year is 1983, and youre a person of limited means. To make matters worse, youve just taken your temperature, and you have an alarmingly high fever. Now, obviously, the safe thing to do would be to go to the hospital. However, theres a chance they wouldnt do much more than give you a couple aspirin. What would definitely happen is that your savings, which youve been patiently adding to in a mission to purchase a radical new boombox perfect for pumping out tunes near any spare breakin cardboard, would go instead to the medical expenses. From a financial standpoint, whats the difference in price between professional medical care and relying on the healing power of music?

Lets look at the numbers. First, the amount youd be expected to hand over if you were kept at the hospital overnight for “observation.” According to the New York Times, you could expect the total cost of a one-day stay at the big sterile hotel for sick people to come out to $369. About half of that would be the daily rate for a room, with the remainder coming from doctors fees, medication costs and other miscellaneous charges. Not exactly a pittance.

Now, lets imagine instead that you were simply to slap a cold rag on your forehead and head to your local Frys to purchase your beloved boombox. Assuming that you werent looking to cut corners, you were likely looking for the O.G. boombox, the one youd seen hoisted on the shoulders of LL Cool J and the like: the JVC RC-M90. YouTube channel Techmoan tracked down a magazine ad from the time featuring the list price of this iconic blaster: $550. Meaning that in 1983, a single-day hospital stay was cheaper, costing approximately 0.67 boomboxes. 

Of course, for fun, well see how the two would match up today. Sticking with the list price for the JVC RC-M90, because those things go for positively bananas amounts of money on eBay now. Well also adjust the price for inflation, so you can stop yelling. Five hundred fifty dollars in 1983 would be equal to $1,467.84 in 2021, which is already highly depressing. Even with that mouth-drying amount of inflation, the cost of health care has outpaced it healthily, with an overnight hospital stay in 2021 costing an average of $2,883. Be unlucky enough to get hurt somewhere like New York, and it could be as high as $3,609.

To summarize: In 1983, a boombox was more expensive than a night in the hospital, which cost approximately 0.67 boomboxes. In 2021, the same hospital stay would have rocketed to almost exactly two boomboxes!

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