Monday, January 07, 2008

Medical Feedback Loop

A little while ago there was a story in WSJ on dead tree about a guy with a blood borne bacterial infection that was repeatedly misdiagnosed*; and when it finally got bad enough to (almost) kill him he needed several heart valves replaced, mucho rehab, and a long recovery time. The story then got into the high hospital bills as the guys coverage 'only' went up to like a 1.5 million dollar lifetime max while his bills were like 2.5 million. When his wife decided to comb the bill (which they couldn't afford) she noticed stuff like this:

For instance, CPMC charged Mr. Dawson $791 for stockings designed to improve blood circulation. The same pair can be purchased on the Internet for as little as $12.
Why were they charging so much? So they could cover the cost of people who can't pay. Of course once the costs increase there will be that fewer people who can still afford it and those with money or insurance are left shouldering even more of the burden.

Today a related story from Ohio:
The Ohio Hospital Association reports that between 2003 and 2006, the overall number of ER visits in the state rose by about 9.5%, while visits by the uninsured grew almost 20%.
...
Hospital association spokeswoman Tiffany Himmelreich says hospitals must find ways to take care of those bills. So, she says unpaid care could result in higher costs for people with insurance.
No 'could' about it Tiffany.
It goes without saying that when insurance has to pay more out the costs for insurance will go up, meaning there will be fewer individuals and companies that can afford decent benefits or any benefits or all. Feeding into this is the unlimited demand for very finite high tech medical services, driving the prices for those already scarce resources even higher.

Solutions? Dunno. There's something to be said for the Taxachusetts idea of forcing everyone to carry health insurance, but that exposed further gaps in the system when the newly insured discovered there weren't enough primary care physicians to cover them, especially at the low ball governmental insurance payout rates.

On top of all that there's the stories I here from my buddy about how his doctor wife has to deal with so many low income Medicare recipients that are either looking for a lawsuit payout, an drug fix to treat vague symptoms, or ideally both.

It's sad to say, but I think some heartless bastard might be the only one able to tune the system.
Hillary for president!

* Too many doctors seem to think they're a TV doctor or something. I had to do Internet searches three times today to diagnose different computer issues and I doubt my doctor will search the net three times this week. This despite the fact that, despite Microsoft's best efforts, the human body is much more complicated than any PC.

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