Medicine over the years has become increasingly entrepreneurial and money driven. Health care, efficiency and value have become secondary aims being overshadowed by the quest for money. In health care, the product you are buying is not usually discretionary, predatory billing is common and an uninformed naive patient can literally lose his shirt. These patients experiences while extreme are not unique.
Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.
Patricia Kaufman’s bills after a recent back operation at a Long Island hospital were rife with such charges, said her husband, Alan, who spent days sorting them out. Two plastic surgeons billed more than $250,000 to sew up the incision, a task done by a resident during previous operations for Ms. Kaufman’s chronic neurological condition.
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Medicynical Note: Medicine is simply following the lead of a deregulated culture that seems to believe that anything goes and that in time the problem will sort itself out. In health care that policy has left a trail of people who are “uninsurable”, neglected medical problems, medically related bankruptcies (we lead the world), exploding costs and a non-sytem of care whose primary focus is generating revenue. Some drug costs have increased 1000 percent in the past 30-40 years…has your salary kept up?
The Affordable Care Act is already helping but we should not underestimate the reactionary forces that believe the money driven non-system is the “best in the world.”