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Dumping Healthcare Costs on All Americans

October 11, 2015
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I’ve written many times about how the march of healthcare hyperinflation continues apace, meaning that the inflation rate for healthcare and health insurance continues to be greater than the general inflation rate (most recent post on the topic by me). Another report sheds more light on how this is affecting all Americans of all insured varieties.

Carolyn Johnson writing in the Washington Post summarized a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that health plan deductibles are growing SEVEN times faster than wages since 2010. What’s happening is that the large Fortune 500-type corporations have given up their efforts to push back against the excesses of the healthcare industry. They have given in to appealing, but erroneous, pitches that wellness programs will save them money. Benefits managers are largely pulled around by the healthcare industry establishment and their consultant cronies into accepting the status quo, with just enough new suggestions by the consultants for the benefits managers to convince the CFOs that they’re “doing something” to address runaway healthcare costs. But in order to actually hold down the costs they pay for insurance, the non-healthcare industry employers are just dumping those costs on their employees in the form of higher annual deductibles.

And the Obamacare plans are no  better. The allowable deductible for a single plan is $6,600; for a family plan $13,200.

As much as I believe in the democratic power of the free market, healthcare is an exception (in moment-to-moment decisions), for two main reasons. 1) there is absolutely no price transparency for health care costs. I challenge anyone whose doctor believes a pelvic sonogram would be beneficial to call around trying to shop for the best price. You will get stunned silence after runaround after obfuscation by office staff who have no price list to quote from. 2) No one can shop around for surgeons, anesthetists, and hospitals when in the throes of an appendicitis attack.

It’s a daunting challenge, but workers and taxpayers must rise up against the excesses of the healthcare industry. Their proxy employers are not doing this for them.

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2 Responses to Dumping Healthcare Costs on All Americans

  1. keely godwin on October 12, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    If you want healthcare pricing transparency, support the move to direct primary care. In direct primary care practices (like the one I’m in), there is no insurance middle man and no charge master. We offer low cost, but excellent care with extended appointments, because we don’t have to hire extra people to chase the money from insurance companies. Patients are happy with the prices because they see a real value from their doctor’s office. We even have some small businesses who have chosen high deductible insurance plans but are willing to also pay about $500 per employee for a direct primary care membership for our office . It’s a movement in medicine that will continue to push down prices while offering price transparency. Too bad we can’t get large federal programs like medicaid and medicare to participate (which would lower costs, deliver better care and improve overall patient–and tax payer–satisfaction).

    • Richard Young MD on October 13, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      Keely,

      This model has promise and some great outcome data from places like Qliance. I think other primary care payment reform options should also be piloted that are equally transparent. Paying for primary care is not the big problem, however. Direct primary care (to my knowledge) does not fix the obfuscation for services such as MRIs, ultrasounds, knee replacements, ER visits, etc.

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