The article in TIME Magazine entitled ‘Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us’ by Steven Brill has received overwhelming responses from social media channels. Most users have welcomed this work and expressed their concerns over precariously rising health care costs in U.S.
Steven Brill’s research tells us that as technology advances, the costs of medical care are increasing rather than going down, as one would expect. Advanced tests ordered in the case of almost all type of health conditions are very expensive. Burgeoning outpatient costs are a major issue and Brill tells of a one-day $87,000 outpatient bill. Patients’ family members are even seeking the help of medical billing advocates to negotiate large medical bills!
Brill wonders why Medicare cannot be extended to everyone and paid by charging people under 65 the type of premiums charged by private insurance companies. Unless Medicare steps in, American people will become powerless buyers in health care market with little visibility into health care pricing, little choice of hospitals or services for they are billed, no chance to know about chargemasters, and no choice of drugs, lab tests or CT scans they need to get. The Medicare payment system (with RAC audits, review plans, error-rate reduction plans) is far better than those of private insurers. However, he says that Medicare may not be a realistic systemwide model for reform and systemic overhaul that displaces private insurers is not a solution. He points out that Medicare is under handcuffs while negotiating the prices for drugs or durable medical equipment on account of comparative-effectiveness research.
He does admire the best provisions of Obamacare – extricating the exclusions for pre-existing conditions, restricting co-pays for preventive care and ending annual or lifetime payout caps – but is more concerned that these provisions will result in rising premiums which would raise costs further. He makes several suggestions to reform the system such as tightening antitrust laws related to hospitals so that they cannot become so powerful that insurance companies cannot negotiate prices with them, taxing hospital profits at 75%, outlawing the chargemaster, and setting price limits or profit-margin caps on patented ‘wonder’ drugs.
It’s no wonder that Brill’s article evoked an overwhelming response on social media. If we look at Twitter responses, we can see most of them are furious at scary costs and discuss their experiences at hospitals. From certain responses, we can infer that the article did spread the awareness of Medicare benefits.
The Facebook responses also welcome this article. Some of them support a single payer system with strong enforcement for accessing health care. On the whole, the social media responses show that people are demanding a complete revamp in health care system.