MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

February 7, 2010

Shopping for Health Care Just Won't Work!

MasterPo is definitely a free-marketer. The market place sets the price and availability of products and services based on the laws of supply and demand that have been proven time and time again. MasterPo doesn't want to tamper with what works much less for the government to tamper with it.

After all, when was the last time government controls on supply and pricing ever worked for the betterment on people?

However, when it comes to medicine and medical services, "shopping around" in the market place for services isn't practical.

In a recent article posted Yahoo Finance one of the regular writers lists his ideas for controlling healthcare costs. Not unusual. Rather pie-in-the-sky in MasterPo's opinion but nothing new. However, one of the comments that was left by a reader expresses the idea that hospitals and doctors should somehow/somewhere post a price list of their services so people and shop around for the best prices.

For just about anything else MasterPo is in 100% agreement with this idea.

But it just isn't realistic for medical services.

In spite of how much we have been bombarded in the last 10-15 years or so with the so called "crisis" in healthcare, in spite of the personal drama stories about this or that person having difficulty getting treatment for some affliction, the vast majority of Americans are mostly healthy most of the time. Even the senior citizens. And the vast majority of medical services are for serious conditions or conditions that if not treated immediately can quickly grow serious. Very few medical tests or procedures (relative to the over all medical field) are voluntary or "elective". So when we do need medical attention it's for an urgent situation.

When someone does get so sick or so injured they need prompt medical attention, that simply is not the time to start going online or calling around doctors and hospitals and clinics asking for their prices to treat you. It's not practical. (and even more so for an emergency condition!)

For example, imagine you're using some tool, it slips and you get a gash in your arm. Let's presume the bleeding isn't too bad (not an immediate life or death emergency), but it is a large gash and runs deep.

Are you going to open the phone book and start calling doctors for prices to fix it?
How would you even describe your injury properly enough for an accurate quote?
Are you really expecting a doctor to diagnose and recommend treatment over the phone? (imagine the liability of that!)
Do you really want or need a price breakdown of everything from gauze and anesthetic to surgical thread and biohazard disposal?
Would you even know what these things are and if they are legit for your need?
And what if the best priced doctor is on the other side of town while the closest doctor is the most expensive?
You going to travel all that way with an injury to get the best price?

Let's say you do shop around and find a low priced doctor to fix your arm. You get there and he wants to do an x-ray or MRI to check tendon damage too. Are you going to accuse him of padding his bill or of having given you a false or misleading quote?

What if he wants to give you a Tetanus shot or an antibiotic? Are you going to say "Hey wait, you didn't say anything about that! How much more will that cost me?!"

The list can go on and on but you see the point.

Shopping around for competing prices is a great idea for just about everything else in life. But medicine and medical services simply can not be held to the same rigidly defined and finite terms of product buy/sell as ordering a pizza or getting a new set of tires. There are just too many variables and unknowns to give that kind of quotation for services.

If medicine, medical diagnosis and treatment was that simple we'd all do it.

No comments: