Thursday, April 14, 2005

Medical Costs Spiral

Here in Utah we have access to some of the best medicine being practiced in the world. It really is great stuff. The problem is, in this world you get what you pay for. Great medical care comes with a price that is more and more becoming out or reach for most people.

No big news here. Health care costs have been on the rise for years now. I'm no expert in the field, but it seems to me that greed and the "law of unintended consequences" is in full force when it comes to health care in America. Why are doctor's fees going through the ceiling? Why does medical insurance cost so much? It looks like a horrible cycle to me, kind of like a cat chasing its tail.

Our society has become lawsuit happy. Every offence, great or small, real or imagined, is ending up in our court systems. Doctors are getting sued left and right, and not just for things they mess up on. Some patients filing suits are saying that the only reason they are doing it is for the money. In fact, some have even expressed regrets when it ends up hurting the very doctors they were suing. "I was just doing it for the money," they say. "I didn't mean to get my doctor into trouble." Are you brain dead? If you sue someone it's going to hurt!

I'm not suggesting that all malpractice lawsuits are illegitimate. Bad doctors are bad doctors and that needs to be dealt with. But more and more I'm finding that many of these lawsuits are just plain unnecessary.

The proliferation of frivolous lawsuits raises the doctor's malpractice insurance rates. I was surprised to discover that many of doctors have to pay upwards of $100,000 a year for insurance. That's a huge chunk of change. So doctors are just greedy as well.

So doctors pass on the cost in higher medical fees to their patients, the medical consumer. That means medical insurance companies have to pay more out, so they raise the insurance rates to cover their costs, passing the higher costs onto the consumers. Wait a minute! Isn't it the consumers that are the ones suing the doctors in the first place? The cat chases its tail.

This spiraling cost is getting so bad that many companies and individuals are dropping their medical insurance because they can't afford it. Others have insurance, but can't afford the co-pays or deductibles, so they don't use it. What's worse is that many of these people make too much money to get government medical assistance, but too little to afford medical insurance. It makes me think that the "working poor" are on the rise.

This isn't the whole story though, by a long shot. I'll grip about the pharmacies later on, to be sure. Doctors and other medical professionals can get greedy looking at the dollar signs waived in their faces by the insurance companies as well. The insurance companies get greedy, the consumers get greedy and start suing . . . It's just a crazy cycle.

The only thing I know for sure is that the something has to change. I think it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better, though. Pray for those who can't afford to see their doctors in the meantime.

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