Help Contain Healthcare Costs and Get Better and Safer Healthcare

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to contain our skyrocketing healthcare costs. To me it appears that healthcare costs started going up once Medicare was passed into law. Fundamentally, it’s the way Medicare reimburses providers. They use a pay for procedure system that has not fundamentally changed in decades. Insurance companies similarly reimburse by procedure. This type of payment system drives the development of more and more expensive technology (some not better than the older less expensive technology) which must be used to justify its costs, all resulting in a vicious cycle of skyrocketing healthcare costs.  Doctors and hospitals are incentivized to order more and more expensive tests and procedures, many of which are unnecessary. 

The number of unnecessary procedures performed annually are estimated to cost $700 billion-that’s 30% of our healthcare costs-and 40,000 needless deaths.  In a remarkable quote from a NY Times article by Gina Kolata last March, one doctor said, incredulously, “I really believe that in our heart of hearts most doctors want to curb this. We know what we are doing. And we are frustrated, too. But we can’t help ourselves. There is nothing to stop us and nothing to be gained by stopping.” THEY CAN’T HELP THEMSELVES BUT PUT YOU AT RISK SO THEY CAN MAKE MORE MONEY! SOMEONE PLEASE REGULATE US us!! OMG!

A lot of this dysfunction in the system is no fault but our own. Often times, we go to the doctor and demand the  “most and the best” medicine has to offer! Costs be damned! Because the bill is sent to Medicare or our insurance companies we are  under the illusion that everything is free and the budget is infinite. I think this is slowly changing. Over the past couple of years not only are premiums astronomically rising, but co-insurance and deductibles are going through the roof as well, leading us to pay a lot more out of our pockets. People are beginning to seriously look at the costs.

Folks, it’s now time to get more involved with our healthcare. However, please don’t over react to the high deductibles by not refilling important medications that keep you out of the ICU or from prematurely dying. Keep important doctor’s appointments that help you manage your chronic diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes. The routine care which prevents complications from diseases such as diabetes is relatively inexpensive, but it will help prevent kidney disease, blindness, and amputations. On the other hand, to help control costs and keep you safe, ask your doctor if you really need that lab test, angioplasty, knee replacement, back surgery, MRI or CAT scan? These are expensive and, sometimes, unnecessary. Yes, folks, we do indeed pay for our healthcare, so while we’re doing so,  we might as well be sure we’re getting the right care. Start participating in your care so  you get the right care!

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