Friday, June 17, 2005


Merriam-Webster defines it as “free from pretense or deceit...easily detected or seen through...readily understood." In the context of this post, any of those work equally well:
The Illinois Department of Health will publish the average charges for as many as 30 common outpatient procedures. “It is important that information be obtained on all surgeries to get a more accurate picture of this component of health care,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director.
According to a recent survey, 85% of Prairie State voters said that such information would “affect their decision” in health care matters, and 75% agreed that such disclosure would “create competition, lower prices and improve quality.”
Okay, I’m done laughing now.
Since when is the price of a surgical procedure the overriding consideration? When was the last time anyone ever called to get 3 estimates for their gall bladder surgery? How about having that tumor excised? Are we really expected to believe that silly measures such as this, full of feel-good nanny-state “disclosure” will somehow affect the quality of care? Hardly.
There are three populations of potential patients who are affected by this law:
First, those that have private insurance (i.e. group at work or their own individual medical plan) already have discounts built into their plans, and a 3rd party which is paying a good chunk of the bill. It’s doubtful that price-shopping their next surgery is going to be a priority.
Second, those who are covered by government programs (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, etc) are unlikely to have ready access to the information in the first place, and also have a 3rd party paying a good portion of the bill in the second. Again, they’re not out scouring for surgical “bargains.”
The last (and least, in terms of numbers) group, those without any insurance or government aid whatsoever, is perhaps the least interested of all. If they have no means to pay for these procedures, what difference does it make what they cost?
The only folks who benefit from superficial, silly legislation like this is the political class, which can be seen as “caring for the little guy,” but actually accomplishing nothing.
Interestingly, I noticed that the bill doesn’t require the publication of success rates. In other words, one could find out the cheapest place for a given procedure, but not necessarily the best place. Remember, though, you get what you pay for.
And one more thing: nowhere in the press release does it say how much this little project is going to cost the Illinois taxpayer. I wonder if they’ll pass a law that requires government agencies to publish how much they spend implementing these things.
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