While hospitals have consolidated and become big businesses, the red tape, lack of coordination between various caregivers and general approach to patients leave much to be desired. One could blame the medical malpractice lawyers for some overly protective medical tests and procedures, but that does not explain the general chaos that reigns at many, not all, major hospitals.
Of course, government red tape is choking the system, and threatened continued reduction of Medicare reimbursements has doctors shying away from seniors. But that does not explain some of the most common issues one experiences in modern medicine.
For example, how many folks have dealt with the wonderful phone systems many doctors now have, where you simply cannot contact a live human being for anything but an appointment? You have to leave a message for a nurse or to have a prescription refilled and pray someone gets to it and actually phones it in to the pharmacy. And of course, to avoid liability, virtually every physician now has the infamous, “If this is a life-threatening emergency, hang up and dial 911.” Duh?
And my pharmacy does a great job, but I am stunned at how much the price of pharmaceuticals has risen. For example, having a history of esophageal cancer in my family, my doctor (who is one of an increasingly disappearing breed of both knowledgeable and caring physicians) prescribes a drug specifically to fight acid reflux for me. The problem is that it costs me, and I’m not joking, hundreds of dollars for one bottle of 30 little pills. The company that manufactures this wonder drug pushes it on television on the air all of the time and adds that, if you can’t afford the product, they may be able “to help.” Well, at those prices, who could afford it?
Our health insurance premiums are rising, while the deductibles have risen, as well. And while “Obamacare” was supposed to make the system work better, either the insurance companies are using it as an excuse, or, more likely, in anticipation of full implementation of the program they are hiking prices in order to survive in the future.
Don’t get me wrong, I still believe America has the best health care system in the world, and there are plenty of great physicians and hospitals. But there is no doubt in my mind that we are headed down a slippery slope. The doctor-patient relationship is declining, and bedside manners are escaping the newest generation of physicians.
All of the talk of electronic records, managed practices and preventative care has really ended up as part of a giant addition to the medical world’s bureaucracy. Try getting the full electronic file after an extended stay at a hospital. You will get what they want you to get, and it may be a lot or it may be a lot of nothing.
But no matter how much the drug companies charge, or what the insurance companies do to raise rates, or however hard it is to actually reach your physician, one thing we don’t need is more government regulation. Government regulation and alleged innovation have likely contributed to this mess.
What we need is doctors freed of red tape paperwork, insurance companies free to compete in whatever states they choose and the free market to bring us back to where we used to be in this country.
All of that said, dealing with health care has become a big pain — but maybe that’s primarily because I’m older now and have to deal with it more often.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.