Tags: Healthcare Reform | Costs | Healthcare | Obamacare | Medibid

Hidden Costs of Healthcare Don't Have to Remain Hidden

Friday, 22 August 2014 09:54 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In 2010 federal spending on healthcare reached a milestone. Uncle Sam became the largest single payer for medical services at 29 percent of the total. When you add state and local to total government expenditures the combined amount of $1.2 trillion is 45 percent of all healthcare spending.
The Obamacare approach to bringing costs down is cost controls. This means the same Washington bureaucrats that can’t seem to get a handle on email preservation are going to be determining the cost of procedures that enhance life preservation.
The hospitals response will be to hire more lobbyists who formerly worked for the Obama administration and ration the number of patients treated under the new imperial cost structure. Other hidden billing overlooked by Washington overseers will be raised to new highs to compensate for Washington meddling.
U.S. healthcare will continue to be inefficient, arbitrary, expensive, and opaque.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The same market forces that have lowered costs in areas not under the thumb of government can do the same for healthcare.
The Washington Post recently profiled a company called Medibid, which the reporter termed “Priceline for patients.” In her quest for alliteration she choose the wrong model, because Medibid is really eBay for elective surgery.
Founded by Ralph Weber — a man who had negative personal experience with socialized medicine in Canada — Medibid is a Dutch or reverse auction for people with non-emergency medical problems. The patient pays a $25 fee to post his request on the Medibid system or $60 for a year of unlimited requests if he’s a professional bull rider or an individual who readily accepts YouTube challenges.
Participating doctors pay a fee of $50 to respond to one bid or $250 to bid in bulk. The Post case concerned Francisco Velazco, a handyman needing knee surgery. The lowest price he could find in Seattle was $15,000, an amount he simply couldn’t afford.
His request through Medibid resulted in “bids for the outpatient procedure from surgeons in New York, California, and Virginia, including details about their expertise.” (This is yet another reason health insurance companies, like auto insurance companies, should be allowed sell across state lines.)
After a series of online discussions, he accepted the lowest bid of $7,500 from a surgeon in Charlottesville, Virginia, and paid the fee in advance. So encouraging competition saved him 50 percent.
The 50 percent more in Seattle represents the premium charged by hospitals to cover the cost of billing and rebilling insurance companies, waiting on hold for clerks to say “no,” hand-holding government bureaucrats, overhead, red tape, and paying the charges for those citizens that don’t bother to pay for anything when they visit the emergency room with a cold.
Weber explained to the Post, “We introduce transparency and also competition. We are a disruptive innovation, a free-market alternative to Obamacare.”
I predict that this threat to the bottom line of hospitals and accompanying initiative shown by Velazco will soon result in an Uber experience for Medibid as the government attempts to shut it down.
Sure enough, Arthur L. Caplan of NYU Langone Medical Center harrumphs, “In the current world you buy the name — the institutional reputation of a doctor or hospital . . . Medical care is not like buying a watch on the street or a hotel room online. The stakes are much, much higher.”
I’ll say. According to the latest statistics from the Institute of Medicine, as many as 440,000 patients a year die from medical errors in these hospitals with “institutional reputations.”
As Forbes magazine concludes, “Medical errors now claim the spot as the third leading cause of death in the United States, dwarfing auto accidents, diabetes, and everything else besides cancer and heart disease.”
And that’s after being charged retail!
This is the same tired argument Yellow Cab makes when it tries to shut Uber down. Government regulation and control equals safety, reliability, and positive outcomes. Tell that to someone who tried to register with Healthcare.dud last year or visits a VA hospital this year.
Healthcare is expensive as the patient is not part of the process. Individuals have been paying for their own Lasik eye surgery and breast enhancement without any help from the government and I haven’t noticed an increase in people with white canes or women with depressed chests.
The one reform government could do that would cut healthcare cost for everyone would be to require hospitals to post a complete menu of charges for the public and stay out of Medibid’s way.
If McDonalds can tell us how many calories are in a Big Mac, a hospital can and should tell us what the bariatric surgery to remove it will cost.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher (for the League of American Voters), and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.

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The Obamacare approach to bringing costs down is cost controls. This means the same Washington bureaucrats that can’t seem to get a handle on email preservation are going to be determining the cost of procedures that enhance life preservation.
Costs, Healthcare, Obamacare, Medibid
Friday, 22 August 2014 09:54 AM
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