Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Hospital/Kahtnu Problem: Either Way We're SOL

I was having a hard time trying to make up my mind about the Kahtnu/CPGH  situation.  I can easily see the merits of both sides.  Competition does help the consumer’s bottom line.  But there is the truth that the hospital is able to offer a full service, including those procedures that will never be profitable, because other services might be more profitable and can cover those other costs. Lose those profitable services and the price of everything else either goes up, or the service goes away.

Maybe it’s easy to be callous.  If you don’t need the service, why pay?  But it is often luck that calls those shots.  Every time someone has to hold a bake sale, spaghetti feed or something to help out someone with medical needs (and often that person in need is a child), I am embarrassed that we live in a society that accepts that practice as being just fine.

Oh, and then there's insistence that tax rates are lower for the rich than what we working people pay.  The result..?

More bake sales. We all know that the proceeds of these fund-raisers don't make a dent in the staggering debt people incur.

We are forced to seek out bargains and places like Kahtnu make sense.  But it is shortsighted to then make it harder for those, who through no fault of their own, can’t afford treatment, so the hospital point of view is also valid.

There is only one solution.  Medicine should not be a for-profit business; just like police, firefighters and paramedics are not for-profit.  The cost of medical care is never going to be manageable as long as everyone at the top in the trade, from doctors to pharmaceuticals to insurers, can make huge profits.

And it comes at our expense.  We pay for it with exorbitant health insurance costs, high deductibles, huge medical bills and taxes.  One way or another we pay for it all.

I can chose not to buy a stereo if I think prices are too high.  We have no choice with medicine. What’s the option when you are in pain or sick… to die or to be in pain?  Of course we’ll pay. Or we’ll be in pain or we’ll die and that does happen here.

Pulling numbers from the thin air just for example, say CPGH total expenses are $20 million a year, that includes all salaries and benefits, supply and maintenance costs and whatever, they have to charge at least that much in fees.  If they lose one component that makes more money than another, they would have to raise the fees charged for those procedures.  The price of services keeps spiraling up and we are forced to pay even more insurance premiums, higher fees and higher deductibles.  Each and everyone of us has had this happen to us already.

Until there is universal, single-payer health coverage in the US and until medicine is run like the service it morally should be - -equally for all - - those who stand to profit from our vulnerability will screw the consumer. 

It already happens.

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