1916 image of patient in face mask being treated by technical in sterile room.

Credit: Amy Armour Smith, 1916

"But Your Insurance Will Pay For It"

Business Obscura May 9, 2022

Took a walk in the woods with a friend over the weekend, and he related his recent experiences with the US medical system.

His heart is dropping in and out of Afib… a kind of irregular heartbeat (you probably know more about than I do).

He told me this story about interviewing a new doctor, and how this doctor’s first suggestion is that they do a cardioversion, which stops the heart, and hopefully restarts it with a normal rhythm.

Being a savvy dude, my friend asked the doctor what the success rate of this dangerous-sounding procedure was.

The doctor didn’t want to tell him, but he pressed.

The doctor finally said. “Well, it doesn’t usually work… but your insurance will pay for it.”

I’m not here to argue about the success rate of cardioversions. In a cursory internet search, I can’t find anything to support or deny my friend’s claim about it's efficacy. But I will say, he’s a high-trust individual, especially on medical topics.

I’m more interested in this quick exchange between doctor and patient, and what it reveals about this country's medical system, and about this country in general.

This doctor's comment reveals that billing the insurance company for procedures (called for or not) has become more important than restoring people to health. I wrote about this recently in Suffering, Inc.

This reality is reflected in the data. These two graphs are a stark reminder that we spend significantly more on healthcare than any other developed nation, and get much worse outcomes.

Source: Peter G. Peterson Foundation
Credit: The Commonwealth Fund

I think this switch has been unconscious. Surrounded by ‘hospital administrators’ who pressure doctors to decrease costs and increase revenues, it seems likely to me that well-meaning medical professionals have quietly slid into a system that puts profit over people. Just like everything else in America.

Something to keep in mind next time you deal with the US Medical system. There’s a good chance they will try to sell you procedures that you don’t actually need.