Friday, August 14, 2009

What Does It Cost?

The bills for Ned's treatments are starting to arrive. We are in shock at the price tags. I'm feeling guilty about the amount of money that is being paid by Medicare on our behalf. How can these prices be right? How can our nation afford to pay these prices. I'm not just talking about the government affording it, I'm talking about the total economic wealth of our country....government, business and individuals.

While I was in waiting rooms yesterday waiting for Ned, I read this article in the current issue of Atlantic Monthly. The author, David Goldhill, is a business man who lost his father due to hospital borne infections that resulted in a $700,000 medical bill. That prompted him to take a good look at our health-care system. The article is the lead article in the September issue and it is long so I'm not going to get into his business analysis of what is wrong. I hope you'll go read it for yourself. It reinforced my feeling that the proposals that are currently being worked on in Congress are not going to fix health-care because they are based on the same business model that we have now.

While I'm convinced that we need to do something, I haven't heard anything from Democrat or Republican that I think will make a radical change in the system for the better. Mr. Goldhill's ideas about what to do appeal to me but we would have to transition into a different business model. One where the patient is the direct consumer of health care. In our current system the providers of health-care are more accountable to insurance companies and government agencies than to us.

Have you ever walked into a car showroom, asked the salesman which car would be right for you and then said, "I'll take it" and you never asked any questions about the car or what the car cost? Well that is what we are doing and probably most everyone else who is covered by insurance isn't asking what does all of this cost either. In fact, I don't believe that the doctors could answer that question if we asked them. It just isn't the way that health care is provided. And we are at fault as well as the health-care providers. If something new comes out, even if the advantage over other treatments isn't significant, we tell our doctors we want to move on to the newest and greatest. Of course, a lot of that is encouraged by advertisements on television for drugs to treat everything from erectile dysfunction to growing thicker eyelashes. If instead of asking for the newest drug or treatment, we started asking questions about the cost/benefit ratio, I'm sure the doctor would send us off to the business office.

Maybe next week, I'll ask what does that little bag of Taxol cost.


jennifer rose said...

Several years ago, I ended up in a hospital emergency room in the U.S. I knew what I needed -- a simple shot to combat a severe allergic reaction. The staff wanted to do this test and that test -- and what I asked "How much will it cost?" they professed ignorance. I tried to tell them not to perform this or that unnecessary procedure, because it would be a waste of money. Finally, I got the message across to them. When I was finished, I asked the receptionist "How much do I owe?" because I wanted to pay right then and there. She didn't know. She wanted to know if I was on some public welfare program. Uh, no. Did I have insurance? Uh, no. "You see, I just want to pay what I owe you. I can pay you. Just tell me what I owe."

"Oh, you'll have to wait three weeks," was the reply.

And they wonder why the U.S. health care system is broken.

Rachel Laudan said...

A really useful post amidst all the hype. Thanks Billie.

Babs said...

Go back and read my plight in January of 4 days nearly $30,000. And they padded that bill with every test they could get away with at my protestations all along the way. The only reason they didn't get to charge for the gall bladder removal, which wasn't the problem, was because I wouldn't sign the release. They sent in FOUR doctors to get me to sign and I wouldn't..........scary, scary, scary.

Calypso said...

They MUST fix the costs of medical care to affect and real improvement in the U.S. That is the place to start - not to enforce mandatory payments and continue escalating costs - why is this so hard to see for politicians?

Billie said...

I hope all of you will read the article that I highlight in the blog. I think something like this idea would change the cost of health care but it would take republican-democrat commitment and a long transition. The US doesn't have the attention span of a gnat so I can't see something like this happening.

Felipe said...

God will strike me dead before I will ever again voluntarily put myself in the hands of the U.S. health-care system.

Billie said...

On Sunday Morning today, they did a segment on French health care. Not perfect but at least everyone has access to care. Some of the things I've run into in the last week once again proves to me that the American system isn't either.