Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Health Care Sucks

So I recently spent some time in a hospital. (Everyone's doing fine, thanks.) It was an awful experience that drove home everything that I hate about health care, mainly:
  • The cold demeanor of most of the doctors you deal with. The nurses are where you get both the real information and the real compassion.
  • The discomfort about almost every aspect of the experience. From the beds to the bland food to the shared rooms, the entire experience seems to optimize your discomfort.
  • The lack of transparency about what the cost of the services you're receiving, making it a confusing and bewildering experience. To that end, you need to be constantly vigilant about what the doctors are doing, since they don't seem to make decisions based on cost or need. For example, one test was scheduled simply because I have a tattoo, notwithstanding that it's 10 years old and i've had a clean bill of health since then.  
The whole thing was topped off with what was some really incompetent behavior from the attending physician, which i'm not calm enough about quite yet to detail here. Perhaps another time.

Coincidentally, I read a quote from Stephen Brill that seems to sum up why the whole experience is so bewildering - mainly, because you're not in charge:
There is no such thing as a free market in healthcare, if one defines a free market as a place where there is some balance of power between the buyer and the seller. Instead, health care is - except when Medicare is the buyer - a lopsided seller's market. That became clear at both ends of the money trails I followed - from the patients' lack of any knowledge of what they were buying or its prices, much less any leverage to bargain over it, to the sellers' ability and willingness to charge absurdly high prices on everything from gauze pads to ambulance services to cancer wonder drugs.
I have to read Brill's expose on health care costs - from what I hear, it's an excellent piece of writing.

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