Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why Health Care Costs So Much

Sometimes I wish I could happen upon authentic video of Elvis driving a Toyota Prius, so I could sell it to a tabloid and afford full family health coverage for a couple of months.

Why does health care cost so much? Because nowadays we expect to survive most ailments.

Let’s say you’re having mysterious abdominal symptoms. If you were alive 100 years ago, your experience would probably go like this:

  1. The local doctor visits your home. He gives you opium and leaches, and says, “take two of these and call me in the morning.”

  2. You die. (Or, in rare cases, God saves you… for a while.)

Today, no middle or upper-class American would dream of receiving this level of medical care. Instead, we expect something like this:

  1. You visit your Primary Care Physician, whose monthly malpractice insurance premium costs more than a college education. The PCP refers you to a specialist.

  2. The specialist makes you sit in the waiting room for longer than it takes to give an English bulldog a facelift.

  3. The specialist recommends a CT scan, which is not covered by your insurance. So she orders an ultrasound instead.

  4. The ultrasound machine, which costs more than a successful campaign for U.S. Senate by a black woman with a facial tick and a criminal record, is operated by a “technician” who is not allowed to tell you anything she sees, even if it is obvious.

  5. The Ultrasound results are sent to a radiologist. Why the radiologist can’t operate the ultrasound machine himself is beyond you.

  6. After returning from a Caribbean vacation, the radiologist eventually looks at the results and relays them back to the specialist, who relays them back to your PCP, who will call you when she is damn good and ready.

  7. The results were inconclusive. The PCP prescribes some pills, which were created by a team of chemists who each make more money than an army of Vegas call girls. They may or may not help you (the pills, I mean).

  8. The specialist orders more testing. Meanwhile, the pills are causing you to break out in hives, vomit, and fall asleep at random moments. To counter these symptoms, you get some more pills.

  9. Finally disgusted with the whole process, you go to see an “alternative” medical provider, who actually has pretty reasonable fees because she keeps her salary roughly in line with Tom Brady’s. She recommends acupuncture and tinctures.

  10. You start to feel better.

  11. You die. (Or, in rare cases, God saves you... for a while.)

If we demand this level of care from our medical system, of course it’s going to be expensive. The question is, who will pay for it?

The answer, of course, is “not me.” Unfortunately, this answer only applies to you if you are a professional whose employer supplies health insurance, or if you qualify for Medicaid.

Otherwise, you have to suck it up and shell out the dough.

If you’re short of cash, I recommend chemical pesticides as a can’t-miss investment. You could also start up your own fast food franchise, or maybe buy up barrels of High Fructose Corn Syrup while the price is still low.

Personally, I’m going to rent an Elvis costume and start a leech farm in my backyard cesspool. Wish me luck.

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