Why aren't we allowed to know the cost beforehand?
How much is this going to cost? This is a simple and reasonable question to ask before signing a document stating that you are responsible and will pay any amount not covered by your medical insurance when having a procedure done. Try asking it the next time you have an x-ray (or any other procedure.) A family member of ours did recently when he was experiencing back pain, and when registering, asked the woman working at the radiology company how much an x-ray of the back cost. The x-ray was ordered by his doctor. The woman said she couldn’t tell him the price because it varied and the rate was going to be worked out later with his insurance company. “Can’t you give me a rough idea how much an x-ray of the back costs?” he said. “Isn’t there a set rate for each procedure that I can see?” “No,” she said, “there is no way of knowing the price right now. I’m sorry.”
Just imagine having any other service or purchasing a product and being told you couldn’t know the cost beforehand, although you are required to blindly sign a legally binding contract saying you will pay whatever they later decide to charge you. That’s unethical and ridiculous you’d say. Well, welcome to the American health care system.
Not letting a consumer know the price before a service is performed would not be allowed in any other business except health care. This is a major reason the system and its escalating costs are out of control and so high. Medicare patients are charged one amount, Medicaid another and each private insurance company and individual policies are charged yet another rate for the very same procedure.
As an expert in antitrust and healthcare, Professor Clark Havighurst of Duke University Law School often speaks of restoring the “price tags” to health care. In The Wall Street Journal, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. wrote regarding Havighurst’s theory: “Now that’s a concept that the public could actually make sense of.”
“The public is not as dumb as it’s made out to be,” says Jenkins. After the public options died in the Senate Finance Committee, Jenkins claims, “What’s left is a package of ‘reforms’ that are mere trite extensions of what we’ve been doing for decades… piling up mandates on private insurers and then lying that this somehow isn’t driving up the cost of health insurance,” and “piling up subsidies for health consumption and then lying that this isn’t responsible for runaway health-care spending.”
The proposal to amend the anti-trust McCarran-Fergusson Act, Professor Havighurst says, leads to no improvement because at the end of bill, it “declares that state regulators would retain authority to engage in ‘information gathering and rate setting.’” It boils down to simple common sense. Havighurst wrote in a 2006 Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, “[F]ew things are more foreseeable that that a trade or profession empowered to regulate itself will produce anticompetitive regulations.”
Let’s just follow common sense. Allow health care to act according to the free market, like most other businesses.
Obama should been forthright in sharing with Americans how resources would be allocated if not by price. The left’s single-payer system still won’t allow consumers to have pricing information so some other mechanism will be used to ration care. A common sense approach would require all healthcare providers to post charges in the waiting room. But instead of putting the price tags on health care so consumers could decide instead, Obamacare complicates and adds new layers to an overly complex and monopolistic system. Obama has botched an opportunity for real progress.
President Obama, don’t under estimate the American public. We’re not dummies; we like to use common sense in making decisions for ourselves. Free the marketplace -- don’t increase regulations.