Catch-22

Funny how things coincide. I mentioned in my post on the BioAgenda Summit that drug prices were a big topic of discussion. One idea for bringing costs down was giving consumers more information about drugs so they can make decisions about the relative merits of drugs and their costs.

Then this morning in my local paper there was an article about the need for more information for consumers about hospital costs. That’s another part of the runaway health care cost picture. As more and more expense is shifted from insurance plans to the consumer’s share, more attention is being paid to the bottom line issue of hospital costs. The suggested remedy is getting more information about differences in hospital costs and effectiveness out to consumers. Evidently the Bush administration is supporting a plan for hospitals to voluntarily provide information. It’s not working well because the hospitals don’t want to disclose a lot of information; it might hurt their negotiating position with payers.

Indeed, a lot of the remedies for ballooning health care costs put the poor consumer in the middle and say, "you figure it out." Seems like a cop out to me and unrealistic to boot. Most of the information about drugs and the multitude of factors in other aspects of health care would be overwhelming, especially once it’s released with a marketing spin by the providers. The public is already confused and increasingly cynical about medicine because they can’t get a straight answer about what does and does not affect their health. Making decisions about complex alternatives while under the stress of life-and-death (or maybe it’s your-money-or-your-life) situations would just add to the health care nightmare.

I’m dating myself, I know, but I have to ask, "Where have you gone, Marcus Welby?"

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  1. JCAHO announced last week they are opening their database, sharing vast amounts of hospital performance data. Payors are joining the movement, too, as reported by the Charlotte Business Journal. Here is the link – http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/stories/2006/03/13/focus3.html?page=1

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