“According to new research from the MELISA Institute, since Chile’s ban on abortion, not only has maternal health improved but the number of women seeking illegal abortion has plummeted!
People who have passed kidney stones have likened the experience to the pain of childbirth. I can certainly attest that it’s one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had… that is until I got the bill.
I woke up one morning in June, 2014 noticing a dull pain in my right lower abdomen. Over the next 45 minutes it progressed to the point where I told my wife that I might need to see a doctor. My normal doctor’s office (a naturopath) told me there were no open appointments, and that I might want to consider the hospital. Not knowing what was wrong (maybe a serious bout of appendicitis?) we headed to Tacoma General.
Tacoma General is a beautiful hospital located at Tacoma’s north end. My mother was diagnosed with cancer there. They always treated us with great care, competence, and respect. And, while my mother had Medicare and supplemental coverage and all expenses paid, I unfortunately had been laid off four months before this incident, was on unemployment, and no longer had insurance which had lapsed with my job.
After checking in to the ER, the pain was getting beyond agony, and I lay writhing across four chairs in the waiting room which made for a very poor bed. After a couple of hours I could stand it no more and went up to the admission station where I proceed to vomit violently. This got their attention! The admissions nurse called a doctor over, at which point I was quickly diagnosed as “most likely passing a kidney stone”, because it’s rare for someone my age to have appendicitis, but “lets run a few tests, just to make sure.” At this point, I just want drugs to make the pain bearable, so I am willing to agree to anything they suggest.
During the admission process I told them I was unemployed and uninsured. They asked several more times during my nine hour stay and got the same answer every time whilst filling out seemingly endless computer forms.
After moving me to an exam room, when they asked if they could run additional tests “just to make sure.” I said yes because I trusted that they had my best interest in mind.
They finally gave me a narcotic, which took the edge off for a while, hooked me up an IV to give me fluids and anti-nausea medication, and then started running the suite of tests. Here’s the bill for everything they did:
So, here I am, drugged, in agony, and not in any frame of mind to consider the consequences of my decisions – including granting them permission to proceed.
At no point during this multi-hour process did the cost of any of these procedures ever come up as a topic of discussion!
The narcotics are starting to kick-in, the pain somewhat bearable, and now it’s time to get a CAT scan so we can “just make sure” that there are stones in there. That’s the line that says, CT ABD & PELVIS W/O CONT for 6,011 freaking dollars!
It’s a procedure that literally takes 2 1/2 minutes. One minute to get on the motorized gurney and get positioned, one minute to go through the magic whirring portal, and 30 seconds to get off the gurney. And yes – they were able to see the stones. WHAT A RELIEF! (Well, except for the part where the diagnosis provided no relief.) Did they ever mention that I could do the CT scan, or choose door number 2 and get a freaking used car? Nope!
About 30 minutes later, the stones passed, and the pain gradually diminished over the next few hours. None of the procedures actually did anything to cure the kidney stones.
$2494, for the “VISIT” (how quaint), $660 for an IV PUSH, $178 for an IVINF HYDR (x2) which is basically a bag of water. This seems like some insanely high pricing – so once I obtained the detailed billing (which took several calls over several months with their billing department to obtain), I thought I’d use my mad internet skills and see what these things might actually cost.
When you separate the consumer of a service (especially medical) from the payer for said service (government, insurance companies) loyalty and accountability invariably follow the money.
First thing is to find a site that can translate procedure codes to human speak, and give me some idea of pricing. I went to Fair Health Medical Cost Lookup website, and here’s an example of some of the prices I found, placed side-by-side with what I was billed.
TG (Tacoma General) vs. FH (Fair Health)
|74176||CT scan of abdomen and pelvis||$ 6,011.00||$ 260.01|
|99284||Emergency department visit, problem of high severity||$ 2,494.00||$ 534.00|
|96375||Injection of different drug or substance into a vein for therapy, diagnosis, or prevention||$ 660.00||$ 103.96|
|96361||Hydration infusion into a vein||$ 356.00||$ 72.00|
|86140||Measurement C-reactive protein for detection of infection or inflammation||$ 258.00||$ 44.55|
|36415||Insertion of needle into vein for collection of blood sample||$ 110.00||$ 20.00|
|82365||Infrared analysis of stone||$ 192.00||$ 106.01|
That’s not exhaustive, but enough that you get the idea. Prices are hugely inflated. The CT Scan is 23X the price of what Fair Health says it should be.
In discussion with their billing department, I was told that “We do not negotiate pricing”, and when I asked for them to treat me like the customer, rather than the insurance company and give me the same pricing since I was “self-insured”, I was told that they negotiate special rates with the insurance companies to which I was not entitled.
At one point I was told that had I contested the bill within the first 30 days, they could have reduced it by 40%. The only problem was that I didn’t receive the bill within that time period, and of course nobody told me that was even an option. It took four different phone calls with different customer agents in order to finally get the itemized billing records!
There’s a lesson here: When you separate the consumer of a service (especially medical) from the payer for said service (government, insurance companies) loyalty and accountability invariably follow the money. The Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) we were told, would make medical more competitive and affordable. It has done exactly the opposite and according to and article in Forbes, causing an over-all increase in the costs of49%. It has also served to entrench the relationship between healthcare providers and insurance companies, exacerbating the high prices of medical procedures.
In essence, you are not the customer, merely the patient. When I asked why the doctors and nurses never discussed the costs of any of the procedures with me, I was told that, “They cannot be expected to know them.” Another disconnect.
Go to any other market based service and you typically are presented with the prices for anything you will attempt to purchase, and with high-ticket items such as cars or houses, there are regulations that require full disclosure. Medicine is the exception to the rule in America, because they do not actually have to compete in the marketplace. Hospitals jack up the prices to insane levels, knowing the insurance companies will pay them a much lower price. The difference is “written down” as a loss by the hospital – a big shell game – so that it appears they are earning much less.
- Medical Price Gouging and Waste Are Skyrocketing – Ralph Nader
- How the American Health Care System Got That Way – Truthout.org
- An Insurance Industry CEO Explains Why American Health Care Costs So Much – Ezra Klein
Conservatives were predicting this shortly after the bill “that you have to pass… in order to see what’s in it” was foisted on the American public. Not even an apology for negligence from the NY Times.
Would Obama be re-elected today?
(This message thread was spawned by a question posted on Analytic News back in April ‘09.)
NO. Farming aborted humans is evil.
Stephen: Response to Brad, 04-21 @ 10:06 PM:
What about IVF embryos being disposed of, which is where most of them come from?
Brad: Response to Stephen, 04-21 @ 10:21 PM:
"…embryonic stem cell research is not–and never has been–about getting some use out of leftover IVF embryos that are due to be destroyed anyway. See: here and here
Anna: Response to Brad, 04-28 @ 05:29 PM:
I am not trying to be crude but seriously are you against sex for no reason? Do you only support sex if it is to create a child? Are you against birth control? I think those are important questions because otherwise I don’t see at all where you are coming from but I think Stephan states my exact argument.
Brad: Response to Anna, 04-29 @ 03:51 PM:
Anna, this question seems a bit out of left field. Are you making some kind of connection between the destruction of human embryos used in scientific experiments with sex for pleasure? I don’t get it.
Anna: Response to Brad, 04-30 @ 03:04 PM:
My point is that the embryos used for IVF don’t all get used and are often tossed out. So the only way I can understand not supporting using those embryos for tests since they won’t be used to make children no matter what happens is if you are against IVF. If you are against IVF then I would think you would be against sex for pleasure. Does that make sense? I am just wondering how you can be against research on embryos that are thrown away or not used. I would think that if you were really prolife you would support putting use to those embryos so their "lives" (of whatever you want to call it) weren’t for nothing.
Brad: Response to Anna, 05-02 @ 02:22 PM:
I never said I was against IVF. I’m against creating multiple embryos then using them in experimentation:
" …The research contradicts the widely-held view that implanting multiple embryos during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is more cost-effective, and improves a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. "At a time when there is an intense debate in many countries about how to reduce multiple pregnancy rates and provide affordable fertility treatment, policy makers should be made aware of our results," said the study’s lead researcher Hannu Martikainen of the University of Oulu in Finland. "These data should also encourage clinics to evaluate their embryo transfer policy and adopt elective single embryo transfer as their everyday practice for women younger than 40," she said in a statement…
The study, published by the reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction, found that the live birth rate was five percent higher for women who had only one embryo implanted at a time."
Just like using food for fuel, once you start using humans (at whatever stage of gestation) as raw material the unintended consequences are huge. Moral relativism sets in, and eventually you can justify any "practical" application. One can sacrifice anything if it’s done in the name of the "greater good", or just your own selfish ambitions.
One example of a "practical" application: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7918296.stm
For all you people that are celebrating this bill, let me give you just a little of what we can expect now:
1. Acute and severe shortage of doctors–especially primary care doctors.
Why: Because this bill does nothing to change the primary problem of incredible waste and inefficiency in the current system which is an overreliance on high cost/high tech care driven by too many specialists, demanding consumers, and medical liability. We already have a critical shortage of primary care doctors in this country and this bill will only make it worse as older doctors retire out of frustration and less and less people enter the specialties of primary care.
2. Number one will be exacerbated by an influx of 30-40 million more people into the system which will increase the volume of people that a diminishing number of primary care doctors will see which will result in shorter visits, longer waits in the office and to get in, and a greater potential for medical errors and mistreatment as the doctor has less time per visit.
3. In a measure to control costs, medical care will move from the time honored system of the patient-physician relationship with the physician using his or her training as well as experience to treat disease to a "best practices" system where treatment guidelines and protocols are based on statistical data and analysis, including cost-benefit analyses and developed by doctors that don’t know you. What this means is that instead of treating the individual–we will be treating the patient within the context of populations. It might not sound different, but I can assure you there is a huge difference–let me try to explain:
Today, if you suffer from coronary artery disease or blocked arteries in the heart, you can be treated with medication and/or more invasively with stents or operation. However, statistics show that patients treated with stents and operations (which are very costly) do no better–as a group–than those treated with just medication and lifestyle changes (which is not so costly). The key phrase here, is AS A GROUP, there is no doubt that within that group of people that have more costly treatments, there are some individuals who do much better with respect to mortality and quality of life than those treated with the less costly methods.
So the end result will be that if you are lucky enough to fall within the arbitrary confidence levels set up by the committee that makes the treatment guidelines, then you’re treated, if you fall out of the curve—too bad.
4. Since doctors will no longer have much discretion in how you are treated, they will find the challenge of being a mere technician reading a cook book unrewarding and unbecoming the years of training and sacrifice they have endured and will leave the profession or not enter it, further exacerbating number 1 above.
5. As a result of number 1 and 4, you will all be seeing more and more mid-level providers like physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) who do not have near the level of training or experience to recognize and treat obscure and rare diseases or complex and complicated cases.
6. The overall quality of specialists will fall and more people with serious or complicated medical problems will not be treated at all.
Why: The current bill aims to reward and punish hospitals and providers based on certain quality benchmarks, like mortality or rates of complications, or infections, and etc. Now on the surface this certainly sounds wonderful–but, if you look a little deeper, what will happen is that a phenomenon that goes on every day in this country called "cherry picking" will become the standard of care.
Let me explain: Cherry picking means that doctors and hospitals will pick and choose only those patients that are going to give them good results….that means that they will be treating patients that are deemed low-risk and that would probably do fine–or even better—without treatment!
Meanwhile, smaller community hospitals and inner city hospitals and doctors that do not have the luxury of picking and choosing only the good risk patients, will have worse scoring on their benchmarks which will mean less money for them (because remember, the "good doctors and hospital" got the money) to invest in research and technology. On the other hand, the "good hospitals" will invest their money on high tech gadgets and technology to treat patients that don’t need it (remember, they are low risk anyway) and which will add significantly to the cost of care and which is the major cost driver for out-of-control costs (see number 2 above).
An analogy would be like rewarding a military unit that doesn’t fight (therefore has low mortality) with high tech weaponry and protective gear, while punishing the units that have higher mortality (because they are in the trenches fighting)! Which unit do you think would have the higher quality?
7. Of course, there is not a single democrat that will admit it, but someone has to say it. That is, like it or not–there will be rationing!
Why: Look at 1, 2, and 3 above. regardless of what the CBO says or Obama says, healthcare costs will continue to rise exponentially as we rely more and more on costly high tech care (which is again, the biggest cost driver) and since 30 to 40 more million people will be added to a decreasing pool of doctors to take care of them and we obviously will not have unlimited money to pay for that care–that means rationing and very long waiting lists! If you’re over 70 and have renal failure–too bad, no dialysis for you. If you’re 60 and need a knee replacement–you’ll have to wait until all the 50 years olds (and sports celebrities) get theirs because they are more "valuable" to society than you. Need a liver transplant–you better be Madonna or Mickey Mantle. Need a heart bypass–better get in line. Are you 70, 80, or 90 and have a broken hip—too bad, you’re not going to get one! You will be given comfort measures and will most likely die of a pulmonary embolus or pneumonia.
8. Insurance premiums will continue to rise and in an attempt to offset that by the government, subsidies will be given which we all know means higher taxes.
Why: Again, this bill does nothing to address the two fundamental problems with American Healthcare: Out-of-control costs spent on high cost/high tech(and even some low cost care such as antibiotics) care and technology–that is often not needed and a third party system to pay for that care.
A third party system does nothing to put the responsibility of (the cost) of health care where it belongs—which is with the patient! As long as there is the perception that someone else is paying for any commodity–then we all by human nature are going to want and expect the best there is and with all the bells and whistles–whether we need it or not! Health insurance should be used only for unpredictable calamities–not routine health care! If we all had to pay for our screening mammograms and colonoscopies, and regular doctors visits, maybe we would shop around and educate ourselves as to whether we really need it and where we could get the best deal! Secondly, as I already mentioned, since the cost will continue to rise and the insurance companies will continue to pay, where do you think the money will come from to pay for it? The tooth fairy?
That is just a short list of what we can look forward to in the next few years–and that’s just in health care!
John Vigil, MD (1988), MBA (2011)
Fellow, American College of Physician Executives
I was reading a commentary in today’s Tacoma News Tribune, in which Paul Metzel, professor of philosophy at Pacific Lutheran University, attempts to make a case against Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s joining Florida’s (and 13 other states) lawsuit against the new Health Insurance Reform legislation (Obamacare) passed last week.
Mr. Metzel proceeds to compare an almost universal requirement for auto insurance with state mandated health insurance. The crux of his argument is that “… people who drive without insurance unfairly impose costs on others.” and therefore the federal government is justified in requiring mandatory health insurance coverage for every individual in the country. The only thing in common between auto insurance and the new Health Insurance Reform is that they both have “insurance” in the title.
Auto insurance is mandated independently by each state. It is not federally mandated, as is appropriate since this power was never granted to the federal government in the Constitution, and therefore is reserved for the States. Auto insurance is still voluntary. You are only legally required to have auto insurance if you drive. With auto insurance, your rates are determined by the amount of risk incurred by the insurer using actuarial tables. With auto insurance, competition is encouraged between insurance providers across state lines, keeping it quite affordable. Health Insurance providers are restricted from this practice, keeping them uncompetitive. If you prove to be too much of a risk, you cannot obtain auto insurance. Under Obamacare, risk is simply absorbed by your neighbor – in the form of higher taxes.
And that is the crux of the counter-argument. No matter what, someone will have to pay the cost. Given the federal government’s track record in controlling costs and providing massive programs that far exceed original cost estimates (Social Security, Medicare), it will be another in a long line of federal boondoggles.
Perhaps Mr. Metzel should play to his strengths and write about the philosophy of honesty and integrity in government, instead of promoting the philosophy of Marxism?
The good news is that they won’t be increasing your taxes!
The bad news is that they will be levying penalties and fees that will indirectly affect the market in a big way. From a Congressional Budget Office letter to the Honorable Max Baucus, October 30th, 2009:
“…but that would reduce budget deficits by about $167 billion over the next 10 years. Most of that amount would result from penalty payments by employers and uninsured individuals and from new fees imposed on providers of health insurance and on manufacturers and importers of brand-name drugs and certain medical devices.”
The result? Remember the rule: “Tax what you want less of”. Taking the above into account:
- Less employment
- Forced participation by people that don’t want health insurance (or are not eligible)
- Uncompetitive price for private health insurance (who can compete with government when they can fine the competition and print or borrow all the capital they need?) driving private insurance out of business
- Higher (not lower) prices for name-brand drugs
- Higher costs for “certain medical devices” making those devices too costly to purchase – restricting availability
If you know anything about business, you know that costs are passed directly to the consumer. The business can’t absorb a loss and stay in business for very long. Therefore, under ObamaCare, costs are passed to the State, and if the State won’t pay, you’ll have rationing.