Saturday, July 10, 2010
Time to Rethink How We Pay for Medical Care and Healthcare
If the basic payment system changes to one that:
-Expects us (patients) to pay for routine, basic and preventive care, including medications, up to a maximum of, say, $1000/year, (offset by tax-advantages HSA accounts for all, including those on Medicare, and tax credits for the less well off)
-This creates a “professional services contract” between the patient and the provider (rather than today’s contract between the provider and the insurer)
-Insurance pays for everything beyond that.
Then three things would happen:
-We would pay attention to what drugs, tests and procedures are offered or suggested and query our provider in much more detail than we do now – because it is our money that is being spent in a direct manner with the provider.
-Providers would be mindful of the “contract” and be careful to recommend drugs, tests and procedures only if truly needed, appropriate and useful; they would think about our pocketbook.
-Insurance would cost much less.
Possibly a fourth thing would happen:
Because we are paying our provider, especially our primary care physician (PCP) directly, as we do our lawyer, accountant or other professional – and paying a price jointly agreed to be acceptable – our PCP would earn enough to:
-Reduce the total number of patients in his/her practice
All of which would result in:
-More time available per patient
-Time available for true preventive care
-Time available to give good coordination of care to those with complex chronic illnesses.
This would not be a panacea and there are other changes also needed to the payment system, but the effect of these few initiatives would be -- less expensive yet better quality care.
And if this does not come to pass, expect primary care physicians to take matters into their own hands by moving to retainer based practices, charging an annual administrative fee, or just not accepting insurance, especially Medicare, anymore.
Praise for Dr Schimpff
The craft of science writing requires skills that are arguably the most underestimated and misunderstood in the media world. Dumbing down all too often gets mistaken for clarity. Showmanship frequently masks a poor presentation of scientific issues. Factoids are paraded in lieu of ideas. Answers are marketed at the expense of searching questions. By contrast, Steve Schimpff provides a fine combination of enlightenment and reading satisfaction. As a medical scientist he brings his readers encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. As a teacher and as a medical ambassador to other disciplines he's learned how to explain medical breakthroughs without unnecessary jargon. As an advisor to policymakers he's acquired the knack of cutting directly to the practical effects, showing how advances in medical science affect the big lifestyle and economic questions that concern us all. But Schimpff's greatest strength as a writer is that he's a physician through and through, caring above all for the person. His engaging conversational style, insights and fascinating treasury of cutting-edge information leave both lay readers and medical professionals turning his pages. In his hands the impact of new medical technologies and discoveries becomes an engrossing story about what lies ahead for us in the 21st century: as healthy people, as patients of all ages, as children, as parents, as taxpayers, as both consumers and providers of health services. There can be few greater stories than the adventure of what awaits our minds, bodies, budgets, lifespans and societies as new technologies change our world. Schimpff tells it with passion, vision, sweep, intelligence and an urgency that none of us can ignore.
-- N.J. Slabbert, science writer, co-author of Innovation, The Key to Prosperity: Technology & America's Role in the 21st Century Global Economy (with Aris Melissaratos, director of technology enterprise at the John Hopkins University).