Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Third Party Payer and Prayer

Over the weekend, I was making a few calls to recent visitors to our church. One woman, a nurse named Anne asked for prayer for Melissa, an 18 year old. Melissa had been in and out of her large HMO's doctor's offices with pain in multiple parts of her body for the last nine months. (Just call this HMO K.) Finally, she was able to be seen at UCSD Medical Center and was told she has bone cancer that has spread throughout her body. They sent her home to die. Anne asks for prayer, because Melissa has no faith and is afraid of dying. Please join me in praying for her.

It also turns out that the doctors at K thought she was a teen hypochondriac trying to get pain meds. I am not alleging that she could have been saved by earlier treatment, but it seems to me that when doctors and hospitals are not being paid by the patient, we start to distort the relationship. The patients often seek treatments that might not if it was their own money. HMOs, in an effort to keep treatment affordable, erect barriers to obtaining specialty care. There are certainly enough horror stories about HMOs for us to see the worst effect of this phenomenom.

But rather than cast blame on HMOs or patients for that matter, I think we should reconsider third party payer for health care and insurance. Wouldn't we all be better served if the patient was the one with the power to decide how their health care dollars get spent and had an incentive to limit their own treatment because they would receive some cash back? Something to consider as we debate health care "reform." As discussed at Carpe Diem, health care costs for cosmetic surgey have been contained, because insurance doesn't cover this.

I know the left will object that some people will die because they can't afford treatment, but that is what catastrophic caps are for. As for the rest of the debate, I don't care what the left will say, the relationship is better and therefore the care will be better when the patient is truly seen as the customer.

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