how about behavior reform?

When I started this blog, I wanted to keep personal details out of it. Mostly so if random people happened to find it, they wouldn’t discount my opinions because of my background or experiences. But, let’s be honest: who we are shapes our opinions, world views, understanding and expectations. Right? So, if readers choose to discount my perspective because of any personal details I happen to share, I didn’t want them here anyway!

In 2007 I was working, my husband was in school, and our insurance was provided through my employer. Then I had a baby and chose not to return to work. But because we needed insurance for some medical issues, we chose to pay COBRA for the next 6 or 8 months. COBRA cost us around $850/month, as much as the rent on our apartment.

During that time, I needed to have a small procedure done. It came up just as we were considering ending our COBRA coverage, so we figured we’d see which was the more economical option: pay the $850 for another month of coverage or pay for the procedure in cash. I asked my doctor what the procedure would cost. She had no idea. I asked the front desk people what it would cost, they had no idea. I asked the billing people and all they could tell me was, “Oh honey, it’d cost a few thousand dollars at best.” No one could give me an exact figure. So, we paid for another month of COBRA.

But it’s hit me lately that, as consumers, it’s almost impossible for us to operate within the healthcare market the same way we operate within other markets. My husband, for example, is a huge deal hunter. He researches, he studies, he shops around, he gets the best deal he can find. I don’t think we pay full price for much of anything, and it’s great to be able to choose how we spend our money on the items we want or need.

With our healthcare, however, we don’t even question the cost. Why? Because “our insurance covers it.” Someone else is paying for it. We’ve even adopted the attitude that, “Well, I probably could just wait out this cold, but shoot, it’s only $5 to see the doctor, I might as well go in.” What does that doctor visit really cost? Who knows? $100? $10? If the healthcare market actually functioned like every other market in this country, I’d call around and see which doctor had the best rates (combined with the best quality of service) before going in and spending my money on a visit.

Before we blow trillions of dollars on sweeping healthcare reform, why don’t we focus on behavior reform? If consumers could understand comparison shopping and financial accountability, they’d force the market to become competitive, all without government involvement or mandates. How to achieve this, I have no idea, but letting the credit market crash would’ve been a good start.

This video demonstrates my point exactly! And I appreciate how he clarifies that insurance initially existed to cover huge expenses like cancer treatment, catastrophic emergencies, etc., not routine, day-to-day care. Can’t we get back to that way of thinking?

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