Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Everyone is to Blame

One constant theme in the debate over health care reform has been the laying of blame for all of our health care problems at the door of insurance companies. Now that's just wrong and it's also inaccurate.

Everyone is to blame!

By everyone, I mean everyone! Individuals, physicians and hospitals, drug companies, the government and yes, insurance companies, all are partially to blame for the problems in our health care system, and everyone will have to change in some way to fix what’s broken.

All of us have played a role in making our health care system more expensive and less efficient than it should be, and it will take all of us to fix it.

  • Consumers have an important part to play. Many preventable diseases are caused by unhealthy lifestyles, poor diets and little or no exercise. Everyone who pays health care premiums is shouldering the burden of paying for the health care of those with preventable diseases.
  • Employers have fallen into the trap of shedding and shifting health care costs instead of thinking about helping employees stay healthy. But if more employers joined the growing ranks of those that create incentives for employees to live healthier lifestyles, health care costs would moderate.
  • Health insurance companies should develop reimbursement strategies that facilitate cooperation, such as increasing reimbursements to higher-quality and higher-efficiency physicians and hospitals. Insurers must also become more user-friendly. Transparency about reimbursement practices and benefit levels would help manage the expectations of both consumers and medical professionals.
  • Doctors and hospitals also play a critical role in improving the efficiency and affordability of our health care system. Market-based reforms such as physician ratings and reward systems for quality and efficiency could, over time, lead to a system that would improve care and increase efficiency making health care more affordable for everyone.
  • Pharmaceutical companies could lower health care costs with one simple step: stop giving consumers misinformation about generics. In many instances the generic is identical to the brand name drug and costs 60-80 percent less. Yet heavy advertising by drug companies influences consumers to view brand name drugs as better. Once convinced, employees pressure their employer to cover the higher-priced brand name drug – driving up the cost of the health care plan.
  • The federal government, the largest payer of health care benefits in the country, has perhaps the largest role to play in fixing our healthcare problems. In recent years, the government has engaged in cost shifting by capping or reducing physician and hospital reimbursements and reducing subsidies to the states. This cost shifting has ended up hurting smaller hospitals and people without insurance.

We all hold keys to open new doors to a better and more affordable health care delivery system. But it means that we will all have to give a little more of ourselves so that everyone benefits.

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