Saturday, November 24, 2012

Financing a Quality of Life

"Imagine a supermarket where you go in with your cart and pull items off the shelf with no prices on them. You take it up to the counter. It's scanned. The clerk swipes your card and says, "In 30 days you'll get your credit-card bill, and you'll know how much your groceries cost." Would you shop there? But that's how the health-care system works. We need to create transparency in the system so people can understand how much health care costs."  - a quote from Mark Bertolini, a CEO of Aetna (Remaking Health Care: Change the Way Providers are Paid)

Over turkey and mash potatoes, this was a choice dinner topic! And much to my surprise, I stumbled upon this article the next day. My aunt who works at a local hospital argued, "we just can't know how much it will cost!" in regards to health care costs.

Why not? The patient is not the primary concern of the price tag debate. It is between the hospital and the insurance company before the patient is even involved. First, insurance companies and hospitals enter an agreement for surgery costs at a flat rate. Then, the price relative to the patient is taken into consideration based on insurance. 

In addition from the patient's perspective, price shopping is not made easy. Especially for a patient who is about to undergo surgery. Under these circumstances, are we really in the position to haggle a surgeon or anesthesiologist? It also calls into question the quality of the operation. Does a lower price mean lower quality? 

But, these issues are being addressed. The nation's finances are being reworked and prioritized, beginning with health care. In some states, commercial insurers and non-profit organizations have created internet sites to advertise and compare prices between local hospitals and clinics so that patients can shop knowledgeably. Eventually hospitals and insurance agencies will be forced to set prices, for their own benefit. It is an industry that has managed to get by with its customers in the dark. But this industry is being challenged. 

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