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Health Care Rationing

Despite the still rampant advertising of prescription drugs, people are pulling back on their health care expenditures like medications because of sheer cost. Proprietary drugs always cost more and it is a known fact that pharmaceutical companies often promote their drugs to doctors and facilities directly for higher levels of market penetration. However, patients are forcibly getting wiser and asking for generic prescription options to save money, but alas, there are still quite a few drugs out there that don’t have a generic version just yet.

So, here is the brave new world of health care rationing. Welcome.

The average person with employer-sponsored health insurance coverage can expect to pay 25% of their health insurance premium costs through cost-sharing, on top of deductibles of anywhere between $500 and $5000. Last but not least, you’ve got co-pays for your visits, cost of medication as well as other supplemental care like vision and dental (if you have anything left to afford these). All of this is being pushed onto the employee more and more without any corresponding income increases. Does that make any sense? It’s no surprise that people are being forced to choose food and home over medication. They are only going to the doctor and buying medications if they absolutely have no other choice. Preventive care is becoming a luxury when in truth, it should be a right.

The 2013 CMS report on the wide-varying costs for a number of hospital visit types, in my mind, underscores an overall need for people to be more informed consumers. As we take on more cost responsibility, we cannot just sit back and go to just any old facility. Just as you would check out a restaurant for its reviews and prices, we should have the mechanism to do the same for doctors & facilities in our areas.

In short, we need some way to price compare our health care. A Priceline.com for healthcare. Not revolutionary, I know, but… do you see that kind of resource anywhere? Not really, although some start-up companies are getting hip to the idea. If people knew they could see a doctor for $200 less than a similar doctor without compromising the level of care, it would be a no-brainer as to who be chosen.

The reasoning for why this doesn’t exist is clear: doctors & hospitals (most anyway) don’t want you to know their base charges. They have no way of substantiating the cost of services. Very often, the trumped-up cost is actually subsidizing other areas of there facilities that aren’t exactly money-makers (i.e., research facilities, etc). For private practice doctors, it is very difficult for them to compare to the massive conglomerate groups that are becoming to pervasive in this health care landscape. They are being systematically enveloped into larger and larger groups because, as ironically as it sounds, they cannot afford to be an individual proprietor anymore.

Many experts agree that the health care system is broken in the United States. It is not about “care”, in actuality. We are a health treatment system. Care implies something way more comprehensive than what the average person receives. True health care involves stronger preventative care to help avoid and deter major and expensive situations. Health care is fully and robustly comprehensive, to include areas like vision and dental care by default. These should not be add-on services, in my opinion. However, as long as the for-profit model exists in the health system of the USA, these are things that will not change. Until consumers find their voice by using their money wisely, we will likely not see the necessary changes to make our medical experiences better. We need to change this model of treating every single ailment with a drug. No one can deny the dependencies and immunity that result with regular use of some drugs. This drug pushing culture has to stop.

Talk with your money and spend it where you get really good care. Don’t expect your local representative to do much, because politics and corporate profits sit way too closely in bed with each other.