Obamacare: could have done something really useful, and did not.
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day. It was about a woman who needed a certain procedure and no longer had a policy with the coverage of her prior policy. In effect, she has what is called a “catastrophic” policy, which covers nothing but a very expensive health problem, past a deductible of, for the most part, $5,000.
So she started to call around hospitals in the New York City, where she resides, to get prices, so she could choose the one with the lowest price. The article recounts her enormous frustration in trying to get someone who knew something about pricing. Runarounds, leaving messages (which were not returned), automated answering systems that went nowhere. On that day, she made 45 calls, was transferred or put on hold 56 times. In the end, she got quotes from only 6 of the 10 hospitals she tried. They ranged from $700 to $3000. If only every hospital were required to post their prices on their website, or a common website, for the convenience of those shopping healthcare procedures.
In the same vein, I noticed that my prior healthcare provider, Aetna, was not participating in the Obamacare website. So that means that not every healthcare provider in every state is on the website for rate comparison purposes. So I would somehow have to find a list of all providers in my state, and call them all, to truly get the lowest possible monthly coverage price. And what seems to be the biggest mystery to me, which no one can explain, is why only certain providers can offer healthcare in each state. Why is every healthcare provider not permitted to offer its services in all fifty states?
How stupid! In the 2,500 pages of the Obamacare law, no one thought to require all health care institutions to post their prices for the 100 most common procedures. Or to open the borders and allow all providers to sell their services in all states. And for them to be required to post their rates on the Obamacare website, not just a few?? I will admit the Obamacare website is nicely designed, allowing for easy comparison of rates between a handful of providers. Why did it not go further and 1) open the borders of each state to every provider, 2) list all providers in a given state, not just a few, and 3) require all healthcare institutions to post their prices on some sort of a bulletin board for all to see, and 4) not require someone to “sign up” for Obamacare to see these prices.
The answer to bringing down healthcare costs lies in competition! The same free-enterprise competition that has raised the standard of living in the US to so high a level. When one sees what the other is charging, so clearly and easily, as a consumer will be able to see on his computer in a minute, then it would be forced to lower their prices, or risk having no customers. Couldn’t the drafters of that law have imagined this? Or were they afraid of offending their PAC buddies?