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MythBusters – Health Care Edition
September 6, 2009 Health Care

This story is so choc-full of myth busters it is hard to know where to begin.

Myth: Profit seeking is the reason the health care is all screwed up

Check this out:

Monday’s announcement was the second time in three months that Berkshire Health Systems, one of the county’s largest employers, said it would cut its workforce: It also shed the equivalent of 65 full-time positions in June. That cut, which took effect July 3, included 46 employees at Berkshire Medical Center and 19 management positions.

The latest workforce reduction will include union and non-union positions within Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Medical Center, but a more thorough breakdown of the affected employees was not given in the company’s statement released Monday afternoon. The nonprofit company declined to comment beyond what was included in its statement, said spokesman Michael Leary.

Diagnosis: Busted. OK, so I am going too far here. But seriously, whatever your view on profits, do you really think that taking profits out of the system, and running things as non-profits will protect workers and patients? Give me the profits and the functioning health care system, you can take the love yourself.

Myth:The non-profit model is efficient. Or more spending on health care is necessary.

The latest cuts “will in no way” affect BMC’s commitment or ability to deliver the highest quality of care and patient safety, according to the statement. Citing a comprehensive range of services and dedicated providers, BMC “remains well-positioned to weather the deteriorating economic climate of health care,” the statement said.

Diagnosis: Busted. If the cuts have no impact on service and the quality of care, does it not raise the question about how effectively this health system is run? Why were we spending that money in the first place? What were these employees doing, playing tiddlywinks?  I also like that last sentence – the deteriorating health care climate. What exactly does that mean, pray tell?

Myth: Government Health Care Works

Medicare and Medicaid account for more than 70 percent of the patient volume for BMC and BHS, and those reimbursement ratios do not cover the cost of care, according to BHS. Dramatic shortfalls in state revenue in 2008-2009 required Gov. Deval L. Patrick to make emergency cuts in state payments for health care services, including the elimination of $3 million in payments to BMC. In 2010, the reduction in federal and state reimbursements to BMC and BHS physician practices could exceed $15 million, according to BHS.

Diagnosis: Busted. I mean really – Isn’t Medicaid supposed to help those who cannot afford private insurance? Isn’t Medicare supposed to help those that are elderly? And how do you think hospitals are able to pay for the cost of treating Medicare and Medicaid patients? They charge private insurers a premium. So taxpayers with private insurance get the pleasure of paying twice for the care of others – through higher costs on their own policies and through higher taxes to pay for the unsustainable Medicare and Medicaid programs. Can’t wait to see who we can spread the costs to once everyone has the option of government health insurance.

Myth: Consumers can’t make their own health care choices

Besides the significant government shortfalls, BHS said many patients that face challenging economic circumstances have postponed or decided against elective non-emergency care, which has lowered the patient volume at BMC.

Diagnosis: Busted. My guess is that state religionists will point to this very thing as a bug. But if the care is elective and non-emergency, it can’t then be considered necessary? Do people have a right to this? And it appears when customers have skin in the game, they prefer to keep buying their beer on the weekends, going to the movies, buying clothes, driving their cars all over the place, to spending some more on health care. But we are told that consumers are too stupid to make these choices and will forego care that is necessary, or that no one should be forced to have to face these difficult choices. Right … and my daughter should not be forced to learn that unicorns do not exist.

"2" Comments
  1. wintercow:

    I recently proposed to some of my economist colleagues that they look at the price trend of medical services/goods such as Lasik surgery, plastic surgery, eyeglasses and other that are NOT covered by a third party, (i.e. considered “elective”) and compare such a price index to that of medical services tha ARE covered by a third party. The trends might prove insightful (I was inspired by a giant billboard advertising the newly reduced price of Lasik surgery) Alas, my suggestion appears to have fallen upon deaf ears. Does anyone know whether such a study has been undertaken? Is this a worthy idea? Is such data available and if so, where?

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