Monday, May 19, 2014
Take two asprin and call me in the morning
I read an interesting article in the newspaper this weekend discussing the sky-high cost of the American health care system. Because they are so visible and their fees seem so high (at first glance), doctors get the rap as the primary cause of our borderline-affordable medical care nightmare. Turns out they aren't even close to being the highest paid links in the health care chain.
The story reported that the average surgeon makes $306K and a general practitioner makes on average $185K. Considering all the education they must complete and the ungodly amount of medical school debt they assume, not to mention the literal life-or-death role they play, I don't think they are overpaid at all.
And just FYI, the average nurse makes $61K and the average emergency medical tech makes $27K. I think we patients are getting off cheap!
So where are the all the big bucks going? The story suggested too much goes to administration / executive compensation. For example, the average insurance company CEO makes $584K, the average hospital CEO $385K, the average hospital administrator $237K.
Of course, the bigger insurance companies and hospitals pay WAAAAAY more than that. Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini was given a salary in 2012 of $977K, with total compensation amounting to $36 MILLION! Even the CEO of mid-sized New Jersey health system Barnabas Health made $21.7 MILLION total compensation in 2012 when he retired. They also had 20 VP's who made over $350K each.
It seems the United States' $2.7 TRILLION health care system is top heavy with administrative costs, to the tune of 20-30% or $606 per American. By contrast, health care administration in France costs $277 per person, Germany $237, and Canada $148. (And for the record, citizens of those countries all have longer life expectancies than Americans.)
Doctors here are even protesting, too. "Among doctors, there is growing frustration over the army of businesspeople (medical coders, claims adjusters, medical devise brokers, etc) around them and the impact of administrative costs which are reflected in inflated charges for medical services", they say.
So how can these guys justify their enormous incomes? They say "large pay packages are necessary to attract top executives who have the expertise needed to cope with the complex structure of American health care, where hospitals and insurers undertake hundreds of negotiations to set prices."
Talk about job security! You make the system so unbelievably complicated very few can decipher it, then demand a King's ransom to oversee the mess you created.
But when Obamacare was in the planning stage, who did they turn to for advice and political support? The insurance companies and big hospital systems! Well DUH! (I guess they sorta had to, but still, their advice had to have been "cover your ass" biased.)
Maybe I'm getting way ahead of myself, but I'm wondering if that tiny little speck I see on the horizon coming headlong towards us isn't a single payer health care system....what its detractors call "socialized medicine"?
My foreign friends say their system works well and we shouldn't be afraid of it. Many Americans seem to think it will suck us all into a black hole of doom. Me? I have no clue.
I guess we'll just have to stay tuned.