Dr. William Foster is an anesthesiologist who has been practicing for 17 years. He has written a very thoughtful editorial about the state of our health care system, and it’s well worth reading. He points out that as a society, we’re always looking for the latest and greatest in health care, but at the same time we want it to be more affordable. We run more tests and perform more procedures than ever before – and our health care costs reflect this.
Dr. Foster touches on the subject of rationing, and points out that while it has been greatly vilified, it is a way to reduce demand for health care. And we know that reduced demand leads to lower prices. Most of us want the best that modern medicine has to offer if we are sick, but that tends to be especially true if someone else is picking up the tab. And since most working Americans get their health insurance through their employers, there tends to be a bit of disconnect between what we pay for health care, and what that health care actually costs.
When we think of the word rationing, a lot of us picture something out of Orwell’s 1984. But that’s not necessarily the case. Many people have made the point that rationing is already widespread in our health care system, both by the fine print in our health insurance policies, and by the very fact that such a huge number of people have no health insurance at all (and are thus shut out from most health care options).
Drug companies benefit as people ask their doctors for the newest prescriptions on the market. Device manufacturers benefit as we do more MRIs. But do patients really fare any better? Perhaps we don’t need quite so many tests, surgeries, or medications – and it would be nice to not have to pay for them either. We spend far more than any other country on our health care, and yet our results are nothing to brag about. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the rationing idea. But let’s come up with a better name for it; it could use a good PR team.