This will be my final post for 2009 as we are going on a trip for the remainder of the school break. I want to end the year with a post on healthcare reform, a topic that concerns us all. You may be surprised to learn that my husband and I favor healthcare reform, especially in areas such as insurance, tort reform and rising medical costs.
There are few topics that can make my blood pressure rise faster than health insurance. While I have been fortunate to have had good coverage, I know that is not so for everyone. Some of my friends and aquaintances have said their health insurance is just fine and that they are against reform. Those same people have been lucky enough so far not to have had major medical problems. They also don't see that lack of insurance coverage for everyone contributes to higher medical costs for all. A friend's grandson was born prematurely and needed to be flown emergently to a children's hospital with specialized care. The bill for the flight was $10,000 but the young couple's insurance policy only paid $500. Another friend has to have a separate policy for her child who was born with a small hole in her heart. Though she is now 12 and doctors long ago said the hole has closed and she is fine, the insurance companies probably have labeled her for life. I could go on and on but the truth is we are all a medical disaster away from financial ruin. Our own insurance cost has gone up but the coverage for wellness visits has gone down.
When people without health insurance can't afford to visit a doctor, they often wait until their problem is much more serious and then go to the emergency room. This makes health care costs much higher than they need be because someone, the doctors and hospitals, eats the cost of treating those who can't pay.
Then there is tort reform. Our legislators don't want to touch this hot topic at all. Fear of being sued often causes doctors to perform needless tests or procedures, raising medical costs again. Medical malpractice insurance costs contribute to the overall healthcare cost as well.
The general public is unaware of the influence that legislatures, lobby groups, insurance companies and hospitals have in dictating medical costs and reimbursements. There is a push right now to do away with outpatient imaging centers and move them back to the hospitals. Hospitals get paid more insurance money for imaging than outpatient centers. It makes no sense get rid of outpatient centers as far as controlling costs and better patient access is concerned. You also may not be aware that health insurance companies are exempt from federal anti-trust laws. This means that they can and do fix prices and allocate customers. You also can't buy insurance across state lines. This limits competition and insures that the consumer pays artificially higher prices. The House version of the healthcare bill eliminates the exemption for insurance companies.
My husband and I certainly have no perfect answers for healthcare reform. The problem is very complex and has evolved over decades. I only hope any legislation passed is a step in the right direction and not promoted as a final solution.
In the meantime, have a happy, safe New Year. If you have any questions or issues you'd like to see addressed in a future blog, please ask in the comment section.