Medical Prices – Force Their Posting
We need laws to force the posting of medical service prices. Show me a medical provider’s office or lab today where you can see what the prices of the various services and tests are?
What other business hides its prices from its customers? Where else do you buy first and learn the price later?
The invisibility of price makes competition impossible, and so makes price shopping by consumers impossible.
The setup is perfect... for the provider, for the rapacious profit-oriented hospital, drug company, insurers and the labs. Its all a big secret rip-off cabal. And we’re not even talking about price controls and setting prices, we’re simply requesting here that they be posted in waiting rooms in a readable size type font.
Competition may then do the rest, assuming real-life anti-trust and anti-competition enforcements – a big if in Republican land.
In any case, its all a big mystery today when we walk in and we either have an insurance card or we do not. With a card, we hand over the information and are then escorted into a labyrinth wherein everyone but the customer/consumer knows the price(s) of services and how they are calculated. "Why worry? You have insurance don’t you? Sorry, I can’t tell you what the services or tests cost."
In addition to the lack of public and visible price tags, there are often secret and special arrangements with each doctor or group, and pricing information which is beyond our knowledge or retrieval. Recent audits also reveal widespread fraud-in-the-inducement in the selling of health insurance plans. Representative Bart Stupak, chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he had "verified countless stories of deceptive sales practices by insurance agents who prey upon the elderly and disabled to sell them expensive and inappropriate private Medicare plans."
Patient rights? Forget it. Real patient rights begin with posted prices for medical services... and some semblance of competition in a field gone for-profit, and where the only price talks are between insurance companies and medical groups.
Why do you think private, profit-seeking, businesses were so eager to get into this field? Where else could you "compete" without competing? Where else could you just tell the government (read taxpayers) what to pay? This is Blackwater, no-bid, cost-plus, contract, medicine – i.e., a very sick and corrupt system in which the penalties and enforcement for fraud and collusion should be greatly increased.
Aside from the old general practioner family doctor, medical services and hospitals used to be largely non-profit affairs. Before the vulture-capital based privatization of so many medical facilities, non-profits ran perfectly fine operations serving their communities. They were largely built with the donations of wealthy people in the community, people giving back so that others could share and benefit from their good fortune and receive needed care at a reasonable cost, or even free.
As a rule, the people who ran these non-profit institutions were not in it for the money. The heads of such large, non-profit, hospitals and facilities used to make decent, but surely not obscene, salaries. Today, however, heads of large medical providers often make salaries in the many millions, and answer to greedy shareholders.
Fix the botton line, make it well, they say... make it better every year or you will lose your job. Here, they’re clearly operating on our wallets.
That’s where the only competition is today, in the race to suck more profit out of a vital community service, asking for more and more money when people are sick and helpless. Yes, build that big expensive edifice, pay that high rent, hang that expensive art, hire the less skilled and unlicensed, prevent the low-rent alternative manned by skilled nurses.
In effect, what was once a community, non-profit-oriented, service is now a blood-sucking (sic) business where management and shareholders bleed both the consumer and the government for as much as the market will bear. Getting well are we?
And we wonder why medical services have gone thru the roof and so many are uninsured? When and where medicine becomes a business rather than a service then many more in the community are bound to become both sick and bankrupt. Big corporate media also does not like to show you too many of these unfortunates cases lest you complain and make "unreasonable" demands. The old bromide applies here – yes, they do bury their mistakes... in the media as well.