You don’t have to be a healthcare policy pundit to surmise that all facets of delivery in this country are driven by profit and minimization of costs required to do it — from the insurers to Pharma, from acute hospitals to nursing homes, from medical device companies and vendors to tertiary care centers. The “healthcare industrial complex” constantly disrupts economic forces, oftentimes operating at a loss while eschewing quality — all in spite of continued government support and the political and policymaking handwringing that goes along with it. One of those government sources of support is Medicare. Today, Time magazine explores the role of the program within the healthcare economy, and how practices — which would be deemed unscrupulous in any other market economic sector — encourage the skyrocketing prices consumers actually pay for healthcare services.
The massive piece, out today and entitled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us”, is the result of a months long investigation by its author which details methods of the major stakeholders (pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers, hospital administrators, laboratories) in the healthcare economy and how they continue the drive for profits “at the expense of patients”. The author explains how “true” Medicare reform is the saving grace for such an unwieldy and unchecked system of healthcare costs and the price of care in this country, by offering the following:
Control of prescription drug prices. The U.S. pays, on average, 50% more than other developed countries for the same drugs. Estimated savings: $94 billion2. Recapture 75% of hospital profits. Ensure real competition and transparency at hospitals. Estimated savings: $84 billion3. Limit the ordering of tests and other procedures sometimes used only to prevent medical malpractice lawsuits. Force lawmakers to enact medical-malpractice reform. Estimated savings: $74 billion4. Regulate fees or tax profits on outpatient clinics. Estimated savings: $50 billion5. Establish price controls on medical device makers. Bring overall gross profit margins down to 50%. Estimated savings: $30 billion6. Allow and fund comparative-effectiveness evaluations in decisions to prescribe drugs, tests and medical devices. Estimated savings: $28 billion
An interesting read, and, unfortunately not a very surprising one. Perhaps the piece’s real punch is how it drives the notion of the patient-as-consumer ethic ruefully front and center — and how healthcare organizations, ambulatory clinics, drugmakers, and insurers exploit healthcare consumerism within the marketplace. Apparently, at the expense of its end product — the patient. | LINK