Healthcare is one of those things that most people don’t have to think about. Obamacare put the issue in front of everyone, but for most healthy people with employer provided coverage it’s out of sight and mind except for the one time of year when we learn how much our premiums are going up.
This has been the case for me my entire life. No major problems and just the annual checkup to make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. So for me health insurance really hasn’t paid for itself (though admittedly, you never really want health insurance to pay for itself). I haven’t had to deal with the mess that is medical billing, specialists, deductibles, and figuring out what is and isn’t covered.
That’s all changed recently. I’ve now been witness to the nightmare that is the healthcare economy. Some fairly routine stuff has involved billing from two different practices with a handful of visits, and testing conducted from a few different contracted firms. And now the bills are starting to roll in.
The problems with the bills are numerous:
- Things I understood to be covered turned out not to be. The doctor’s office didn’t tell me that and the insurer’s coverage guide now looks intentionally vague.
- Medical coding might be wrong. In order for certain procedures to be covered, the doctor may need to code it a certain way.
- Billing is vague and unpredictable. We’re never sure when a bill will come in and when it does might not even know what it was for.
- No one at the medical practice knows what is going on. The practice is affiliated with a major hospital, so many functions get centralized and those people have no idea how to answer patient-specific questions.
None of these issues are things we can’t handle. But it feels more complicated than it needs to be. And it’s a distraction to whole reason you needed medical care in the first place. It’s easy to see how a moderate or perhaps major health issue can consume someone financially and psychologically.
Obamacare is supposed solve a lot of the problems in the healthcare sector. The significant cost of healthcare is merely a symptom of the underlying bloat and inefficiency. It remains to be seen if the reforms will make a difference. But we should all keep an open mind to tweaking policy down the road if things aren’t working.