#ehr, ACO, Health Care Costs February 26, 2013

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

by Dr Nick

THere is something fundamentally wrong and flawed with a system that bills patients at highly variable rates, the highest to those with no “insurance” or poor “insurance”.
Insurance in this instance seems like a poor term to describe a system that even with full standard coverage still costs patients thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars of unexpected cost.

It has gotten worse and as the McKinsey study cited in the article highlights

we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia. We may be shocked at the $60 billion price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We spent almost that much last week on health care. We spend more every year on artificial knees and hips than what Hollywood collects at the box office. We spend two or three times that much on durable medical devices like canes and wheelchairs, in part because a heavily lobbied Congress forces Medicare to pay 25% to 75% more for this equipment than it would cost at Walmart

There are many drivers but central to them are the disconnect between the payers and the people accessing care. Without any personal accountability it is easy to access the care with no thought of the cost or the possible alternatives and better choices.

Some of the reasons behind this are vested in the history of healthcare and how we got here – but just because that was the way it was done before does not mean it is the way we have to do it now.

There has to be a better way – the same as there has to be a better way of compensating the healthcare providers fairly for the work they do. The system currently is designed to pay for things done not for outcomes and results. And clinicians are locked into a system that forces them to document in great detail, oftentimes repeating information that is already in the medical record – because if they don’t they don’t get paid
Many wi ll tell you the information is unnecessary and we see some of the effects with reports of duplicate data. So much better to capture decision making, real information and allow the documentation to be the communication tool between clinicians (which was always the original intent) and then determine the care provided and a fair compensation for the hospital, the provider and everyone involved for delivering that care (and importantly linked ot results not to just delivering the care)

I know I am hoping this is on a pathway to getting fixed. At some point I will be facing bills and challenges such as these – and since the education system (thats a whole other blog posting on the meteoric rise of education costs) has essentially stripped me of any savings and value in my one big investment (my house) I like many others are probably tapped out and have little to call upon when we will inevitably face these challenges. That puts me rooting for major change in healthcare, the system with a move to pay for performance much of which is embodied in the ACO initiative.

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