Letter to the editor — July 1, 2011

Dear Editor,


Much is being written each day about the quality and cost of our health care system. Figures and comparisons are made to our cost vs. other countries. Still no one is asking the right question … WHY? As a former quality manager, in order to find the root cause to any problem keep asking “why” as many times as it takes to get the base answer.
I recently visited a dermatologist at Anderson County Hospital Clinic. A nurse took my blood pressure, then I had several mosquito bite-size skin lesions frozen using liquid nitrogen in a spray can. Zap! Zap! Zap! That’s it. I was in and out in 10 minutes. The quality of care was very good. All of the staff were very friendly. I have not reached my insurance deductible limit, so the bills are my responsibility. The doctor’s bill was $220.70. The clinic bill was $291.65. Added this comes to $512.35 (equates to over $3,000 per hour). Why? There was no high tech medical procedure performed. The room, provided by the hospital, was very basic.
Anderson County Hospital and the visiting doctor are part of St. Luke’s Health System. Health systems negotiate with insurance companies and agree on what dollar amount the insurance will pay for any given procedure. The costs that I stated reflect these agreed upon charges. In this case, I am the payer not the insurance company, but I must pay the “set in stone” amount. I (the patient and bill payer) have no negotiating power.
OK, ask “why would the insurance company agree to such an outrageous charge?” They don’t care! They get their money from the pool of us in the general public and employers. Why would our government allow this rape to occur? They get large campaign contributions from both parties is my suspicion. Where is the money going? Good question. I do not believe Anderson County Hospital is getting rich.
Today’s health care system is so masked from the patient with bureaucracy that it cannot be penetrated. Where is the patient to go when confronted with such an exorbitant charge? Where are the doctors in this mess? They have opted not to have their own business; not to say, “Pay your bill at the front desk.” At least if you paid at their office you would know then and there who to talk to, if you have a question. Now many doctors work for the large organizations. They have allowed themselves to be pawns in the big money game. I hope that there are still some out there that choose not to be a part of it. I think I know of one.
Here’s a question for you, “How long does it take you to make $512.35?” I’ll bet more than 10 minutes.

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