This Alligator Bites Your Wallet and Won’t Stop Chewing

Warning: This column might be called a rant. You might be wise to wave off now.

I cannot imagine why we put up with it. I’m thinking about the sick state of healthcare in America.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to Third World countries and seen misery and need. I’m genuinely thankful for what we have. I have good friends in all sectors—physicians/providers, hospital administrators, insurance folks, attorneys, etc. I’m incredibly thankful for the health insurance my wife and I have. Having served on a board charged with finding health insurance for over 100 employees, I understand and know how very, very hard that task is.

But our system has become utterly insane.

Want to know why most average workers in our country are heading backwards financially even if they get cost of living increases (which are not real raises) or raises in pay (which are really meant to be raises)? Healthcare. For most folks, its cost rises at a rate consistently outpacing any pay adjustment. Both workers and companies are being slowly eaten by a hungry alligator who won’t quit chewing, and they can’t get out of its jaws.

Want to start a business? Good for you! But good luck to you. You’ll need it, and this is a big reason why.

Ah, but here comes governmental salvation. Right. Increasing governmental involvement mucks up everything. Stand in line all day at a governmental office seeking “public assistance” and tell me you want the government more involved than it already is, despite “pie in the sky” let-the-already-broke-government-pay-for-it-all or soak-the-rich political campaign horse hockey so popular right now.

If your goal was to design a system bloated, wasteful, and inefficient, you could hardly do better than we’ve done.

If people of good will and wisdom actually had a shot at trying to fix this, it would still be complicated. Instead, we get misleading politicians who refuse to speak to each other.

Greed in some form at every level is throttling the goose that laid the golden egg. Insurance companies. Attorneys. Politicians. Some unethical providers. The list is long.

It’s like the money isn’t real.

An article in the Wall Street Journal recently asked, “What Does Knee Surgery Really Cost?” The answer: In 2016, the average price was over $50,000. We should be surprised, but I wasn’t. I figured that in our system, a new knee, hip, or left nostril would probably run that much. But a hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, commissioned a realistic and thorough assessment of every moment doctors and staff spent with patients, and added in every penny of all associated costs—all of them. The actual cost was “$10,550 at most.”

A good friend of mine underwent an inpatient, in-his-doctor’s-office procedure and got a statement for $56,000. Admittedly, it was a procedure that took real skill and high-dollar equipment, but in what universe should any inpatient procedure cost $56,000? He almost required a cardiologist when he saw the statement. But everyone besides the patient knew these aren’t real dollars. They’d bill the insurance company $56,000 (wink, wink), would honor their pre-agreement for $3,600 (wink, wink), and he’d pay $1,200 for deductible and out of pocket expenses and maybe for having the procedure in a month ending in a Y. Who knows why?

It’s like buying peanut butter in a grocery store with no price on the jar. If you were on public assistance it would be “free.” But for you, average Joe or Joan who knows life and peanut butter is not free, it rings up as $3,000. You gasp. That seems like real money and a lot of it. But the nice register lady explains that they have a deal with the peanut butter folks to sell it for $5.00 and your part will be $2.50—unless your deductible or out-of-pocket expense (that’s the same pocket the deductible comes out of) hasn’t been met. Or unless the insurance company decides that peanut butter is an experimental food and thus not covered. Or unless you failed to “pre-certify” your need for peanut butter before you bought it.

We really should boil over. It seems to me that we should never have to undergo a non-emergency medical procedure without having a written and binding paper in hand saying, “This is the price. Real money.” No wink. Now, let’s be nice. Let’s allow a 10% window for unforeseen complications and a procedure to appeal for more. That’s fair. But we should demand a price up front just as we do for anything else that we buy.

Healthcare really is not free. For patients trying to live. For hospitals and providers trying to stay in business. The money is real, even if our sick system encourages all of us—wink, wink—to pretend otherwise.

Thank God indeed that his Son’s sacrifice, costly beyond belief, was paid in full by our Lord. Mercy overflowing. Grace to the max. Real blood. The best care of all. And no deductible.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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