Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Reason for High Medical Costs

Now that I am nearly eligible for Medicare, I guess I will have to be very nice to my doctor.  Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m worried that my doctor will not be excited about getting the bargain-basement reimbursement that comes from having another Medicare patient.  No, I’m thinking that if I’m very nice to my doctor he can help me get a lot of free stuff!

I’ve already written about the scooters and such devices that may be paid for by Medicare – at no cost to me.  Now I learn from a newspaper ad that an “easy-to-use, high-tech back brace is now covered by Medicare.”  Relief from back pain can also be mine “at little or no out-of-pocket cost.”  If that doesn’t work, my Medicare plan will also cover chiropractic or acupuncture treatments.  Good news for my back! 

When considering these products, the government warns:  “Review all the factors that affect how much coverage you will receive. Make sure all paperwork is completed correctly and that you buy your equipment through an approved supplier that accepts assignment.”  This information is not included in the sales pitch, but it came to light earlier this year that:  “Government inspectors say up to 80 percent of the scooters and power wheelchairs Medicare buys go to people who don't meet the requirements.”  You just have to be in good with your doctor or get the company’s help to apply pressure.  This sales tactic is so common that it has recently gotten Senate attention.

But it’s not just Medicare.  A few days ago on the radio, I heard about a test and treatment for low testosterone for men who are not feeling as young as they used to be, (and apparently are not wanting to admit that they are, in fact, not as young as they used to be).  The ad ended with the increasingly common statement:  “covered by most insurance.”  How many of these items are really medical necessities?  We have moved from saving lives to trying to eliminate any sense of discomfort, and continue to expect it all to be paid for by someone else.

How can anyone bring down the cost of healthcare when interest groups, lobbyists, senior citizens and others, either directly or through the government continue to pressure insurance companies to cover more and more drugs, devices and treatments?  Applying insurance only serves to make shoppers less careful, which leads to price increases.  More items are added to the list of covered services also push up the price of insurance.  Then we wonder why we end up paying more for premiums.  Do we really expect to get more for less?  This is just another example of that magic-money-tree thinking that is so common, so dangerous, and leads to so many of our societal problems.

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