Monday, November 21, 2011

Government Price Controls

A doctor, now retired from the health care rat race, decided to offer his opinion on top down, government rationed health care. His observations were published in the Dominion Post.

A brief excerpt follows.

In short, Dr. Iammarino (retired pathologist) had a rapid heart beat, went to the ER for diagnosis and treatment. The doc is covered by Medicare and opted to have ablation surgery to correct the issue.

His total bill was $53,252.75.
I am a longstanding health professional (an M.D.) and I knew this charge was way over the top. I asked for an itemized bill. There were many examples of excesses. To me, the most outstanding was $48 for one 100mg dose of Zoloft. At the local pharmacy, a generic form of the drug costs well under $1. The hospital does have legitimate extra charges, but nowhere near $47. It went on and on.

I wanted a second opinion. Another cardiologist came to WVU, relieving the shortage well after my procedure was done. He had been in private practice. I asked what the charge of my procedure would have been in the area of West Virginia where he had practiced. He said it would have been around $10,000. In my case, Medicare paid $8,318.33.
OK, and your point is?
Had I been a private-pay patient, I’m sure the $53,000 plus would have been what I had to pay.
Can you say out of touch?

No one pays "sticker price" and those without health insurance usually pay almost nothing for their care. Hospitals are lucky if they collect 15 cents on the dollar from the uninsured.

His rant continues.
Around 1980 and since, Managed care groups (Health Maintenance Organizations — HMOs) became very popular. We were told that they would save money.

HMOs built on venture capital, saw health care as a low-risk, highprofit industry. We have seen medical care turn into a profit making business — mostly privatized with shareholders and highly paid CEOs.
Health care has NEVER been a low risk, high profit business. Apparently this doc spent way too much time in the lab and the fumes got to his brain.
Getting old has some advantages, but one disadvantage is recalling the government stepping in to establish price controls and fighting against price fixing when confronted with outlandish charges
Too bad his memory fails him when it comes to price controls. When the government regulation stopped and the free market returned prices and inflation when through the roof.

Thanks to Henry Stern for this tip.

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