A Response to “Bitter Pill” (Time Magazine)

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The effect of the high cost of health care in America has been painfully understood by millions of Americans for a long, long time. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does many good things, but it did not adequately address the critical issue of cost. This will be a major issue to tackle as the ACA improves access to care, but more needs to be done to reign in health care costs.

The Time article (March 4, 2013 edition) entitled “Bitter Pill” documents the high cost of hospital services and their effect on patients. Similar articles could be written about how the high costs of insurance, pharmaceutical, adaptive equipment and medical supply companies also negatively affect us and our ability to access quality health care. The race for ever increasing profits has resulted in our nation having the highest costs for health care and abominable health care outcomes. Americans, delude themselves that this is just our Market system at work and we are very proud of our market system. The truth is health care is only a market within different health care sectors and among their providers (insurance, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, etc.). It is not a market for consumers as we are powerless to affect their charges or practices. There is little or no transparency on how they develop their charges and it is extremely difficult for consumers to determine how they actually spend our dollars. Add to these problems the fact that we developed over the years a health care system that rewarded volume and not health outcomes and you have the “perfect storm’ for consumers resulting in over 53 million of us without insurance, millions more struggling to pay medical bills and medical debt being the cause of over 50% of the nation’s bankruptcies.

It more than ironic that a health care system, ostensible designed to heal is actually making us sick. Stress and poverty are key social determinant of health. Our “healing system” bankrupts us and makes us ill.

Consumers must stand together and demand that our healthcare system reform itself or we will demand increased oversight and regulation from our government.

Corporations who provide our healthcare must be required to lower THEIR costs and pass their saving on to consumers, not use all their savings to grab more market, increase executive pay/ bonuses, contribute more to candidates, etc. Spending by health care corporations should reflect things that really matter to consumers, such as, affordability, sufficient, well trained staff and quality outcomes.

The Time article provides the incentive for all of us to engage in conversations that will lead to a less profit drive health care system to one that is health outcome drive. Every company in our health care industry has a wonderful Mission Statement calling for it to provide quality (and often affordable) products or services for the public. The disconnect between these wonderful statements and their practices is often huge. Together we must recommit to building healthy communities where health care is both affordable and of high quality.

 

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