The deeply flawed American health system

AmericanHealthSystemAmong many reports on problems in the American health system was a new study published in Health Affairs.

The study found that 50 U.S. hospitals have been charging uninsured patients ten times and more than they should have.

All but one are for-profit institutions.

The most overcharging hospitals are located in Florida, followed by New Jersey, dominated by the corporations Community Health Systems and Hospital Corporation of America.

California and, surprisingly, Oklahoma and Arkansas, rounded out the top five states with overcharging hospitals. Other than California, most of the West, Midwest and Texas hospitals were found to be in line with costs of operation.

So how can hospitals get away with such excessive overcharging?

“They are price gauging because they can,” said Gerard Anderson of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, co-author of the study. “They are marking up prices because no one tells them they can’t.”

The study was based on Medicare/Medicaid data collected from early 2012 to early 2013. Concluded Anderson: “Collectively this system has the effect of charging the highest prices to the most vulnerable patients and those with the least market power.”

And from another front, Charles Krauthammer reports in The Washington Post that America’s doctors are “deeply demoralized” about the system turning them into typists. The healing profession they joined is now plagued by “incessant interference” from insurers, lawyers and government.

Topping their grievances is the federal electronic health records (EHR) mandate that all medical offices go paperless by January 2015. President Obama promised that digitizing records would save billions of dollars and  countless lives.

But instead, EHR has exacted a devastating price from patients and doctors. There is much less listening, examining and even eye contact because so many doctors are tapping data into computers, wrote Krauthammer—gazing at the screen, scrolling, clicking, tapping.

Studies have found that emergency room doctors now spend 44 percent of their time filling out forms, instead of tending to the sick and injured.

The central (non-medical) planners who imposed the digital deadline reasoned that if it worked for banking, why not medicine?

But banking is not medicine.

Federal mandates have turned “the patient into the data machine,” and doctors into computer jockeys, said a disgusted Krauthammer.

And where are the taxpayer-funded protectors of our health and welfare? Perhaps Jonathan Emord, writing in News With Views, describes the performance of health agencies, as well as most bureaucracies, best:

“The FDA is a regulatory morass, a cesspool of corruption, red tape, bias—the very antithesis of reason.”

Primary sources: The Week,


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