A Shattered Healthcare System: Abandoning Pieces of Patient Livelihood Outside of the OR

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You walk into a casual sit-down restaurant, and the host or hostess immediately greets you. They provide you, and your accompanying party, with menus. This menu outlines the prices of each item along with the upcharges associated with a substitution.

No hidden fees.

When you get your tab at the end of the night, the total isn’t a surprise. Why?

Transparency.

The restaurant told you the price for each item — the appetizers, the entrees, the drinks, and desserts. Each menu item is priced upfront to customers.

Now, look at our healthcare system.

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You walk into the ER — nervous and afraid of what might happen next. You know your insurance doesn’t fully cover a trip to the emergency room, but you need to see a doctor.

Do you gamble with your life in fear of going into medical debt, or do you accept the expensive, invisible price tag required to get the care you need to survive?

This scenario is the reality many Americans face today. Often, a trip to the ER is the darkest and most frightening time of a person’s life. Their life or a loved one’s life hangs in the balance. The cause of the hospital trip doesn’t matter. Billing won’t care who you are or how you got there — only that you pay what they decide you owe using disguised price tags and masked terms and conditions.

Our healthcare system could take a page out of the book of free markets.

Supply and demand dictate prices. Competition fosters a healthy assurance of low consumer prices.

The monopolistic behavior of our current health system inhibits these natural, free-market forces. Addressing this nationwide problem head-on involves an understanding of the current disaster.

What happened to our Healthcare System?

Today, most Americans have two health care choices: Delay the treatment or go ahead with the care they can’t afford.

Path One: Dangerous Deadly Delay

Due to high costs, too many Americans decide to delay necessary treatment. Often, the doctor they need is out of network. Overpriced rates prevent critical patients from receiving the care of medical specialists.

Path Two: Getting the care you can’t afford

This option results in debilitating debt for patients who decided not to gamble with their life. They’re now at the mercy of collection agencies who will track and hunt them down to receive payment.

This is the reality for those lucky enough to survive.

Even the so-called “charity” hospitals act as predators towards the very patients they vow to keep safe.

Doctors prescribe expensive drugs with long lists of side effects to cure a single ailment.

If it’s not expensive medicine, it’s costly testing. A patient comes in with a headache. They receive a CAT scan. They will need to pay for their time in the machine regardless of whether the test answered their questions or if the scan aided in addressing their affliction.

The standard of care has changed, but the prices haven’t.

Extensive testing for minor symptoms severs the hope of financial freedom for many low and middle-class citizens.

Did these patients see the prices in advance? If so, when? How are they supposed to know the care they received was even necessary when there is no itemized bill?

The healthcare system is stacked against the American people.

Our healthcare system doesn’t function like that of every other market where sellers of a product compete for business based on price and quality. Today, patients are in the dark about both.

After dissecting the problem, it’s time to discuss solutions — price transparency and free-market ideals.

What would transparency look like?

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Imagine a healthcare system with complete transparency.

Each service, scan, procedure, and medication has a price listed before you even walk through the door. Not only do buyers and sellers have the ability to view pricing information, but innovative start-up companies in the tech industry have the freedom to create simple, easy-to-navigate online platforms that allow patients to “shop” for health services.

An Amazon for healthcare.

Is there a remedy to our healthcare problem?

To genuinely transform this trainwreck of a system, patients need to start thinking like consumers. An improved way of thinking will help to drive down costs and ultimately improve the outcomes of healthcare. Price information will increase competition among hospitals, clinics, drug companies, and medical supply companies leading to lower prices.

Gasoline stations, airlines, retailers, and many other industries all participate in price transparency.

There’s no collusion. It works.

The road to picking up the pieces of a shattered system:

How is it that one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the U.S. can also be one of the most difficult to navigate?

The industry is broken.

It’s packed with unforgiving wait times, an exponential number of forms that require you to sign your financial freedom away, and bills written in medical hieroglyphics that need translation for the typical person to understand.

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Not only is this a convoluted industry, but it’s also eating away at our economy.

According to a 2019 John Hopkins Case Study, total health care spending, including contributions from taxes, insurance, and out-of-pocket costs, is estimated to be $19,266, or 37%, for an individual earning $52,000 a year.

Spending this much on healthcare alone, other industries that keep our economy afloat are forced to suffer on the sidelines. Crippling medical bills move thoughts of destination travel to the back burner. The travel industry won’t collapse, but you get the point.

One in five Americans have medical debt in collections, and one-third of the nation’s population is in debt due to medical expenses alone.

The healthcare industry desperately needs a makeover.

Addressing the cost of medical treatment and finding ways to combat the layers of disarray within our healthcare system are natural first steps. Free market principles ensure lower prices while maintaining top-quality care.

A 2015 study by economist Zach Cooper found that prices at uncompetitive hospitals charge 12% more than hospitals with four or more competitors.

Monopoly hospitals shatter lives.

The balance of healthy competition from a free marketplace set-up combats this devastating effect.

You receive a medical bill for $10,000. 12% is the difference of $1,200. What was originally part of your Italy trip budget is now in the pockets of greedy collection agencies. I guess you’ll be skipping that romantic gondola ride in Venice after all.

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Price transparency will foster fair competition within the industry, give patients back the control of choice, and restore confidence in our health system for direct and open care.

Financially fragmented livelihoods shouldn’t be the aftermath of survival.

Know your rights and fight for consumer choice.

Let’s put back the pieces of our broken healthcare system.

I’m fascinated by words and captivated by the power they can have in everyday communication. My story is still unwritten and the pen is in my hand.