Wednesday, February 9, 2011

America's Broken Healthcare System

Could you imagine taking your car somewhere to have its oil changed but not knowing what you would be paying for that oil change until after the job was completed? Where in this world would you pay for a product or service but not know how much it was going to run you until you received the bill in the mail? I'll tell you where, in our broken health care system, that's where. Look, I'm not here in support for a government-run form of healthcare, in fact I'm against it seeing how everything our government runs seems to go bankrupt. Social security...bankrupt. United States Postal Service...bankrupt. Medicaid and Medicare...also bankrupt. I think you get my point. Our government is not known for handling money or staying within a budget very well. That being said, I would be a fool if I didn't admit that our current healthcare system is as broken as Humpty Dumpty after he fell from the wall (personally I believe he was pushed).

Part of the problem I see with our health care system is that it seems to only cater to the insurance companies and not to the individuals. Doctors and hospitals jack up their prices knowing they will have to give a large discount to the insurance companies and thus, the price for medical attention has blossomed faster than a lily on a warm spring day. Have you ever over inflated a basketball to the point of it rupturing? It isn't pretty, a bit dangerous, and ruins an otherwise perfectly good ball. Our healthcare system is the ball and the costs for medical services represent the air inflating it. Our system is about to burst and we're not even all in the game.

So follow me on this. Doctors and hospitals are forced to raise the price for services because they know that the insurance companies are going to haggle with them for a large discount for sending people their way. That seems all right so far, doesn't it? But wait, what about all of us who have either very crappy or no insurance at all? What happens to us in this scenario? We are stuck paying those inflated costs without the benefit of getting a big discount like the insurance companies. So we're screwed.

So here is my solution. It's a simple one. Screw the insurance companies and cater to the needs of the individuals instead. Set your prices fairly and make insurance companies and individuals pay the exact same across the board. But here's the real kicker: I also want to be able to walk into my doctors office and have a menu of services offered with their listed prices. I'm so tired of asking how much some procedure might cost and having the doctors, nurses, and receptionists look at me as if I'm stupid as they scramble to try to find a price for me. Shouldn't you know what the procedures cost? I mean you're the ones performing them! The lady at Subway knows exactly how much she's planning to charge me for the footlong Spicy Italian before she ever gets out the meat and it too much to ask my doctor's office to be able to do the same? I understand that Dr. So-and-So thinks I need an X-ray. That's fine. Just tell me what it is going to cost so I can shop around and see if someone does it for cheaper elsewhere. At least give me a price I can compare it to. It is simple free-market economics.

Look, I'm a landscaper by trade, so I know a little bit about providing a service and receiving compensation for that service. I really wish I could tell people what they needed done in their yard, perform the service without them knowing how much it is going to cost them, and then bill them after their the project is said and done. That would be great for me, but it's not really practical for the homeowner or ethical on my part. When I bid a job, the homeowner knows exactly what it is going to cost them for each step of the project. That's how business works. You have something I want. You give me a price and I decide if I want whatever it is you have bad enough to pay the price you're asking. If I don't, I am free to shop elsewhere for a similar product, or maybe after shopping around I find that your price isn't so bad after all and come back to purchase it. See how this all works? Of course you do, it's our healthcare system that doesn't.

If I am going to have a heart surgery, show me what it costs. If I have to get my prostate checked with a greasy finger while singing "Moon River" (think Chevy Chase in Fletch), then I really would like to have some idea what it is going to cost me (besides my dignity) before I agree to have it done.

If this were to happen I can only imagine how easy my next doctor visit would be. I would walk in examine the board of procedures and prices above the receptionists desk, or perhaps sit down and peruse a handheld menu of procedures and prices. I look over them carefully, and decide what I need done and if it is going to fit within my budget before approaching the front desk.

"Can I help you sir?" the receptionist would say.
"Yes...I think I'll have one prostate exam, a strep check, and we better do a quick cancer screening as well. Oh and what the heck, let's also remove that wart that's been bugging me."
"Ok sir, it looks like your total is going to come to $750."
"Oh, that's weird. I thought I totaled it up to $800 in my head. How did I do that?"
"Actually sir, it normally would be, but today is Wednesday which is half off wart removal Wednesday. So that saved you $50."
"Wow, that's great. I'll have to remember that and tell my friends."
"Please do sir. And do you have a "Rewards" card with us yet? Every tenth procedure equals a free one of the same or lesser value."
"Well in that case, sign me up."

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Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously