by Stewart B. Segal, MD
You’ve got to be kidding me. You can’t control the cost of healthcare. It’s a freight train running out of control! So what do you do?
Option 1: Blame the doctors! Blame the hospitals! Wait a minute…providers don’t set their fees anymore. The insurance companies and Medicare tell them what they will be paid.
Option 2: Blame the pharmaceutical companies! You know, the ones that develop medications that reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. The greedy ones that help a person with emphysema breathe or create vaccines that prevent whooping cough, measles and meningitis. Wait a minute…I forgot, the insurance companies limit their charges as well.
Option 3: Blame the insurance companies! Our premiums result in profits for the insurance companies. If the insurance industry posts record profits every quarter, aren’t their profits part of the cost of healthcare? If they take billions of dollars in profits yearly, and every year outperform the previous year, wouldn’t that increase the cost of healthcare? The answer is yes!
Option 4: Blame the patients! Could it really be the patient’s fault? Is it a diabetic’s fault that he loves sweets and sweets worsen his diabetes causing him to need expensive medications? Is it a patient’s fault she had a stroke because she relied on “all natural” treatments instead of the medication prescribed by her physician for high blood pressure? Her hospitalization, rehabilitation and nursing home care will cost lots of money!
Option 5: Blame the juries! In the United States, we could blame the attorneys, courts and juries who give away millions for burns suffered when coffee is spilled. After all, someone has to pay for pain and suffering. Besides, it’s the liability insurance company who really pays the bill. Wait a minute…insurance companies pay judgments out of premiums and providers pay the insurance company premiums. Sunday’s Daily Herald’s front page story, “Why don’t new doctors stay here?” stated failure to pass adequate tort reform (limit what the lawyers and litigants can make suing doctors) is costing Illinois doctors so much that they are leaving the state. Doctor’s premiums run from $16,651 to $178,291 yearly. Those premiums get figured into the cost of healthcare.
Option 6: Keep blaming the juries! Not only do outrageous judgments against providers result in higher premiums, but they also cause doctors to practice defensive medicine. There I said it…doctors practice defensive medicine, ordering extra tests, trying to avoid being sued. We live in a society where, if something goes wrong, it must be someone else’s mistake. A physician is rarely sued for doing too much but often sued for doing too little, even when “too little” was medically correct. So doctors do too much…I guess that means you blame doctors again and we are right back where we started.
So what can we do? Number one on the list is to take personal responsibility for your health. Work to stay healthy. Work with your doctor. The healthier you are the less your cost of healthcare will be. Secondly, do regular maintenance on your body. Treat it better than your house or car. Don’t put premium gas in your car and junk in your body. Next, reassess the way you buy healthcare insurance. If you insured your car for routine maintenance, tires, brakes and transmission repairs, you couldn’t afford auto insurance. Buy a high deductible policy and use the money you save to fund a medical savings account. After that, call your state officials and demand they enact tort reform. When pain and suffering suits are veritable lottery tickets, people will keep bringing outrageous lawsuits. Finally, if you are on a jury, don’t be fooled. The money you award comes from the health care costs that you pay.
Remember, when everyone is to blame, everyone must be part of the solution.