Thursday, November 18, 2004

Shopping For Health Care

Have you really thought about what health care might be like should Bush be able to get his plan enacted? Something I saw the other night got me thinking about it...

The piece I saw said that Bush's health savings accounts would mean that we'd all be responsible for the cost and use of our health care dollars. The reporter and Peter Jennings opined that would likely mean that people would skimp on preventative care, trying to keep lots of money in their accounts for later use. This would, of course, result in more trips to the emergency room which is much more costly in both the short and long run.

What really caught my attention was that there would be incentive to "shop around for the best price on medical care."

I don't know about everyone out there, but when I'm sick I really don't feel like calling around to find out which doctor's got the lowest price on an office call. If my doctor thinks I need lab work done, I don't want to have to take even more time from work to call around to different labs to find out who's got a sale on blood work that week.

Besides not wanting to shop around when I'm sick or when I'm afraid I might be, what the hell do I know about determining which lab has the best equipment or provides the most accurate tests? Just how am I supposed to know how to balance an inexpensive office call fee with expert care? For more complicated or more urgent medical work, am I supposed to take the time - would I even have the strength or the mental wherewithal - to shop around for an MRI or an endo-scopic exam? How do I judge the worth of one course of chemotherapy over another?

This idea of owning your health care sounds wonderful. If we were all doctors with the knowledge and experience to make such incredibly important decision in times of high emotion and stress, it might work. Maybe. But there are some things that are too important to trust to "the market." This remains among the worst ideas ever floated before the American public. I hope Bush's marketization of medical care dies a quick and quiet death.

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