When a surgeon pushes a parent to get her daughter’s ears pierced in the OR, and then bills her $1,877.86 for the procedure, we know something is wrong with our health care system. But this is just business as usual, Lown President Vikas Saini explains in the latest edition of ProPublica‘s series on medical waste.
Waste in health care has “become so normalized that I don’t think people in the system see it,” said Saini, “We need more serious studies of what these practices are.”
ProPublica journalist Marshall Allen chronicles other stories of clinicians pushing unnecessary care on patients, including a woman who received excessive ultrasounds and mammograms that she didn’t want, and was later harassed by hospital collections to pay; and a man who had a bicycle accident and was urged to take an airlift to the hospital, to the tune of $44,000.
It’s not just a few bad apples, Saini says, but a broken system that puts profit over patients:
“Providers are getting constant messages from superiors or partners to maximize revenue,” Saini said. “In this system we have, that’s not a crime. That’s business as usual.”
Patients aren’t true health care consumers because they typically can’t shop by price and they often don’t have control over the care they receive, Saini said. The medical evidence may support multiple paths for providing care, but patients are unable to tell what is or is not discretionary, he said. Time pressure adds urgency, which makes it difficult to discuss or research various options.
“It’s sort of this perfect storm where no one is really evil but the net effect is predatory,” Saini said.
Read the whole article on ProPublica.