Posted by John Ager on 15 August 2012.
I came across an interesting post in the New York Times recently. A mother was recounting her experiences with her daughter who had sprained an ankle at dance camp. The pediatrician said it would get better over time. When the ankle didn’t get better in a few weeks, mom sought a second opinion from a sports medicine specialist, who ordered an MRI and then referred her to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Referral begat referral and many tests, including more MRI’s, were ordered. Finally, the ankle got better pretty much on its own but only after many, many thousands of dollars were spent trying to determine if there was anything there more than a simple sprained ankle.
This pattern is often repeated over and over in our health care system. Insurance pays so many are not shy about seeking a second opinion. Doctors get paid for ordering tests and interpreting the results so tests get ordered and results get interpreted. Return visits are scheduled to monitor progress. More tests and studies are ordered to be sure everything is better. Through it all the costs mount up and get spread throughout the vast pool of insured Americans. Even if you aren’t the one taking your daughter from doctor to doctor, your health insurance premiums go up.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this pattern cannot and will not continue. Costs must be brought under control somehow. The ever faster upward spiral of health care costs must be slowed or stopped or, better yet, reversed. If we cannot figure out a way to slow or stop it ourselves, the system will spin ever more out of control until it crashes. I don’t know what things would look like in the event of such a crash, but I know I don’t want to find out. We must take responsibility for our own health care costs before others take responsibility for us.