Tags: Health Topics | Healthcare Reform | Money | Obamacare | Hospital | Hospitals

Healthcare Reform Begins With End to Hospital Costs Secrecy

Friday, 22 Apr 2016 03:00 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Last week I wrote about the failure of Obamacare to reduce the number of uninsured. 

Today’s number is about the same as it was before Democrats passed Obamacare.

The only difference now is being uninsured is no longer synonymous with low income.

Obamacare policies are so expensive and the deductibles so high that middle-income families are dropping their coverage.

If you missed last week’s column or just want to refresh your memory, please click here.

Health insurance is expensive because government at all levels — federal, state, and local  — interferes with the market’s price-setting mechanism and consequently consumers are not in the least cost conscious.

The analogy you’re probably most familiar with is the comparison between health insurance and car insurance. Experts point out car insurance is there to cover major expenses and emergencies.

That’s why Jiffy Lube doesn’t send the oil change bill to Travelers.

If it did you would be choosing between paying for your car insurance and your child’s college tuition. The analogy is good in other ways, or as the tech types say: It’s scalable.

Car insurance/health insurance can also produce a comparison in the area where the real cost pressure originates — the hospital. As a matter of fact, if car crash repair worked that same way hospital stays, no one could afford Obamarepair, either.

Think back to your last car crash.

Individual companies differ, but if the car is drivable the owner usually calls his agent, then either gets estimates on the damage from three body shops or goes to the insurance company’s adjuster for an estimate and a choice of body shops to complete the repair.

Both systems are cost-conscious. The driver knows what the range of repair costs is in the first instance and in the second he can choose the repair shop he prefers, since the company directs its repairs in return for a lower price.

Following the health insurance model removes all cost consciousness. The owner drops his car off at the body shop and the shop bills the insurance company. The owner is blissfully unaware of what anything costs after he pays the deductible.

There is no comparison pricing and no competition since prices are shared only with the insurance company and not the public.

Bob’s Body Bending would be arguing with Travelers over the $200 charge to inflate the tires long after the owner was back on the road.

Knowledge is power and awareness is control, but hospital prices, as I’ve previously written about in my columns, are hidden behind a Kremlin–like wall of secrecy.

I’ve advocated a conservative solution that would require any hospital accepting federal funds to post a complete price list for all its services on the web.

If Dominoes can calculate calories over an infinite number of topping combinations, MegaCorp’s hospital can reveal what a tonsillectomy runs.

You may have noticed that hasn’t happened.

What has happened is the market may have produced the beginning of a solution in the most unlikely of places. When I’m looking for a recommendation on chicken curry, Yelp.com is my first stop, but it wouldn’t even be on the list if I were researching chicken pox.

And that’s a mistake. The Washington Post writes that Yelp has hospital reviews that cover 1,352 institutions and what’s more, the reviews “[provide] a broader sense of a facility than . . . a U.S. government survey that costs millions of dollars to develop and implement each year.”

One must give the Posties credit, they keep the faith and always surprised when government fails yet again.

The reason Yelp is more helpful than the fed’s Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey is Yelp reviews aren’t subject to influence by hospital lobbyists who make sure the government survey contains as little useful information as is humanly possible.

Combine that velvet censorship with the regulation writer’s English-as-an-occasional-language composition skills and any useful consumer information is an accidental byproduct.

The Washington Post explains, “The Yelp reviews had information about 12 additional categories that weren't addressed in the government survey.

"Those include the cost of the hospital visit, insurance and billing, ancillary testing, facilities, amenities, scheduling, compassion of staff, family member care, quality of nursing, quality of staff, quality of technical aspects of care, and specific type of medical care.”

In other words, information a patient would want before entering the hospital and not after a consultation with the malpractice lawyer.

This is a tremendous, positive private sector breakthrough. If public-spirited citizens would start posting charges from their hospital bills in the review, consumers would finally be able to compare cost with quality.

Think of it as letting out a yelp for all of us.

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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If Dominoes can calculate calories over an infinite number of topping combinations, hospitals can reveal what a tonsillectomy runs. If public-spirited citizens would start posting charges from their hospital bills in reviews, consumers would finally be able to compare cost with quality.
Obamacare, Hospital, Hospitals
Friday, 22 Apr 2016 03:00 PM
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