"If healthcare were run like retail…" It isn't, nor can it be (part II)

Continuing from yesterday’s entry in which I address Regina Herzlinger’s article If healthcare were run like retail…, we come to point number 2:

“Everyone must buy insurance and the federal government maintains a strict oversight to ensure price and coverage fairness.”

That’d be a great idea- if everyone really could afford to buy insurance. The problem is bigger than that. Different hospitals are charging insurers and patients different amounts for the same procedures—even with the same physicians. (A recent article from The Boston Globe discovered that health insurance companies pay a handful of hospitals far more for the same work even when there is no evidence that the higher-priced care produces healthier patients. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true: Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, earns 15 percent more than Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for treating heart-failure patients even though government figures show that Beth Israel has for years reported lower patient death rates.) Even with governmental intervention (as in the Mass. case, in which the state panel is expected to examine such payments), the emphasis is on “the impact of [the] deal, not the players involved,” and how that deal may have detrimentally affected global healthcare costs.

While we’re at it, what does “fair” mean, anyway? What’s fair to me may not be fair to you. Who’s to decide? Isn’t that akin to the old argument of “obscene art” in the ‘80s? Something so subjective can hardly be used in an argument regarding healthcare.

(Tomorrow: “Small, disease-specific hospitals care for patients who don’t need all the services offered by medical centers.”)

This blog first appeared at Action for Better Healthcare. - Ed.

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