Healthcare And Money

Unless you’ve been living someplace without access to any form of media, you’ve heard about how money worries — not just greed — affect the quality of our healthcare.

A link to an online New York Times story appears below.  A print version will be in Sunday’s Metro Edition, and possibly the National Edition.

The article addresses one angle of the healthcare money crisis which most of us know nothing about, although we may learn through experience if we’re ever in the hospital with a complicated illness.

For years, some of us have been saying increases in Medicare and Medicaid funding are needed to protect the public health, and we are quick to assure others this is not a conspiracy to take away people’s guns.  Whatever.  Actually, what a few of us have in mind is taxing the wealthiest one percent of the population, which the GOP equates with taking away people’s guns.  I guess that’s where the comparison comes from.

Believe it or not, a hospital might treat a patient at cost even when private insurance is billed and the patient pays his or her share of the expense in full.  Health insurers negotiate with hospitals to keep their own costs down, which results in quite a shock for uninsured patients when they see their bills.  The patient who pays entirely out-of-pocket is expected to pick up the slack, and he or she can’t always do it.

Bottom line:  The system shouldn’t be rigged so that quality care is denied, provided at cost or subject to huge patient bills.  Even hospitals with nonprofit status risk closing, and chronically ill patients can go broke trying to pay the remaining balance after their insurance companies are billed.

I hope no one who sees the salary figure for hospitalists at the Oregon hospital will dismiss the problem as a cause-and-effect thing with physicians’ salaries.  A career in medicine used to be more lucrative than it is now.  Repaying student loans and covering overhead costs of a doctor’s work often take a large part of the gross income.  In case you’re wondering why there are fewer doctors in private practice now, that’s the reason.

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