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Posts Tagged ‘Medicare’

If you have time (and I encourage you to make time) you will find this article by David Goldhill in The Atlantic Monthly very illuminating.  Goldhill’s father passed away in hospital due to infections he received from the hospital and in this article he chronicles his subsequent obsession with, and research into, the American health care system.  He is not a reporter, he is a businessman… and a democrat I might add.  It is a very honest, commonsense, and thorough look at our whole system and his experiences within it:

For that matter, try discussing prices with hospitals and other providers. Eight years ago, my wife needed an MRI, but we did not have health insurance. I called up several area hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices—all within about a one-mile radius—to find the best price. I was surprised to discover that prices quoted, for an identical service, varied widely, and that the lowest price was $1,200. But what was truly astonishing was that several providers refused to quote any price. Only if I came in and actually ordered the MRI could we discuss price.

Several years later, when we were preparing for the birth of our second child, I requested the total cost of the delivery and related procedures from our hospital. The answer: the hospital discussed price only with uninsured patients. What about my co-pay? They would discuss my potential co-pay only if I were applying for financial assistance.

Keeping prices opaque is one way medical institutions seek to avoid competition and thereby keep prices up. And they get away with it in part because so few consumers pay directly for their own care—insurers, Medicare, and Medicaid are basically the whole game. But without transparency on prices—and the related data on measurable outcomes—efforts to give the consumer more control over health care have failed, and always will.

He doesn’t come out against single-payer (which I definitely am against) but his review and critique of the existing system causes serious suspicion upon giving even more leverage and influence to government.  Insurers come out very poorly in his assessment, and rightfully so, but by his own admission they are simply playing the game that has been laid down in law.  From top to bottom you will see how health care has gotten so tangled in a matter of just 60 years.  In light of what is being proposed in congress and the white house you will be interested to have this breakdown of the system in your bag of knowledge.  Be forewarned, it’s not a brief article.

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This is one of the reasons why I don’t think the idea of universal coverage for health care will work in the long run.  People self-ration when they are faced with monetary or other consequences.  When they are not?  Well, this article from Texas’ American Statesman chronicles how:

In the past six years, eight people from Austin and one from Luling racked up 2,678 emergency room visits in Central Texas, costing hospitals, taxpayers and others $3 million

These are low-income and uninsured people who use the existing
“universal coverage” known as Medicare and Medicaid.  Granted this is not indicative of everyone, and a huge caveat is that 7 of these people are diagnosed with a mental illness and drug addiction… so this is definitely not the average American.  But I think this is still important to show how the system is faulty and can be taken advantage of, not necessarily the behavior of everyone.

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