Have you ever tried to do cost comparisons for medical services? You do it all the time for your car, your house, food and clothes. But its not easy to find out what medical services cost before you buy. Of course, most of us aren't too concerned because we figure were not paying the bill anyway.
PATMOS Emergiclinic in Greeneville, Tenn., is different. Their charges are prominently posted in the clinic, on their Web site (patmosemergiclinic.com) and even, at one time, on a billboard. The patients need to know the charges because PATMOS accepts no insurance. Patients are directly responsible for their charges.
The cost savings are enormous. The annual overhead at PATMOS, with 5,000 patient visits per year, is about $200,000 less than for the average family physician who accepts insurance. That's a cost savings of $40 per visit or potential annual savings of $60 billion nationally from family physicians alone. Administrative costs of insurance companies, government and employers would also be substantially reduced.
Without question, our current system of reimbursement has serious problems. Costs are high, and access to care is uneven. People often must make job and lifestyle decisions based on access to health insurance.
Rather than give up and turn our health care system over to the government, we should put our American ingenuity to work to devise payment systems that permit patients to get services they need and save money at the same time.
Is it too late to save our healthcare system from slipping into the dark night of collectivism? Its hard to say. But there are definitely better options out there.
Tom Patterson is chairman of the Goldwater Institute, a former state legislator and emergency room physician. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.
Goldwater Institute: Health Care Choice: Giving Arizonans More Health Insurance Options
National Coalition on Health Care: Health Insurance Cost