Thursday, December 27, 2007

Health Care 101

News about health care costs soaring is common place. Not infrequently I hear physicians complain about reimbursement, specifically what insurance companies pay physicians for their services.

There are two sides to every coin and the issue of health care costs is no different. I recently heard a patient complaining about the cost of his angioplasty. An angioplasty is a very technical procedure where a cardiologist removes the blockage in one or more coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. "Why, I could have purchased two jet skis for what this procedure cost." Keeping my thoughts to myself I mused that if he had purchased the jet skis instead of having the angioplasty he could have had a heart attack on the lake.

The other side of the coin is the fact that insurance companies, large hospital and physician groups along with equipment and drug manufacturing companies are making unconscionable profits. I learned how to spell "unconscionable" when I wrote a letter to a company about their product. On the market for years, this product had been sold to physicians for $30 for a 10 dosage vial. That is three dollars a dose. When the medication received FDA approval for a new, more widely needed indication the company began to sell it in a single dose vial for a price of $60 each. I guess I should also thank this company for allowing me to brush up on my math skills. It took me a few minutes to calculate that this was 5000% increase in their profit.

Health care cost inflate the cost of most of the goods and services we buy as employers are forced charge more so that they can afford to pay more for health insurance premiums. You are paying for someone's health care every time you purchase a car, visit your accountant or bring home a bag of groceries. As an intern I was told that health care cost could not reach 12% of our gross national product. That was 26 years ago and today health care represents almost 25% of our GNP.

I don't have an answer to this problem. This blog has been sitting in my list of posts for almost six months because I disdain a complainer who cannot offer constructive solutions. I am very unpopular with my colleagues because I don't believe the solution is to pay doctors more money. Instead the solutions to these problems lie with all those involved, physicians, hospitals, and drug companies returning to the business of caring for patients instead of making a business of patient care.
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