If you ask me, the worst thing about living in America is the medical system. For every single American. Of course some people might occasionally experience racism, or sexism. You might be concerned about the future of our environment. You may worry about unemployment, or terrorism. But all these are things that MIGHT happen, and even then only occasionally. However, each and every time an American goes to visit a medical provider they will absolutely get fucked. Without exception.
A Perfect Example
Cataracts affect people of all races, sexes, and origins indescrimently. They don’t care if you’re rich, or poor. And it’s not within your control to prevent them. The good news is there’s a simple procedure to correct the problem, and it’s performed 3.5 million times a year in the US (and 20 million globally).
The bad news is, the surgery takes only 5-10 minutes to perform, however the average cost billed to patients in America is $3,600 per eye. That works out to an hourly rate of $21,600-43,200 for the medical facility, or $216,000 – $432,000 per 10 hour day, or $56,160,000 – $112,320,000 annually running 5 days a week for 52 weeks.
Yeah, But There’s a Good Reason…Right?
There are lots of arguments that would attempt to justify the egregious overcharging for one of the most common surgeries done in America:
- America is litigious! Doctors have to charge so much to pay for malpractice insurance! Medical malpractice insurance costs physician’s 3.2% of their revenue. There haven’t been rate increases in a decade.
- Doctors go to school for a long time! They need to recoup the costs! Sure, becoming a doctor is costly and time consuming. 55,000 other people get PhDs each year who aren’t in the medical profession, and their fields aren’t robbing America blind.
- Yeah, but doctors have your life in their hands! So do the doctors that build elevators. And the ones who engineer the vehicles you take your family everywhere in, and the ones who build airplanes, the ones who build dams, the ones that manage the global economy, the ones that develop military systems to keep you safe and free, etc.
There’s A Big Difference
The difference between medical professionals and all the other equally valuable and difficult professions is that in every other instance you have the ability to avoid interactions with those professions.
- You never need to get in an elevator.
- You don’t have to drive or ride in cars.
- You can avoid airplanes.
- You don’t have to live in the shadow of a dam.
- And so forth…
But if you say… develop cataracts, you’re at the absolute mercy of the medical profession – and they know it! So it’s going to cost you $5,000 per eye if you want to keep seeing things.
The Indian Dillema
There is a huge problem with any logic that attempts to justify US medical pricing. In other countries it simply doesn’t work like this. Take India for example. They also do 3.5 million cataract surgeries annually, conducted by real doctors, using the exact same equipment and techniques but at a cost of just $250-750.
Remember that even at these prices the surgery only takes 5-10 minutes! So we’re still talking about $3,000-$9,000 per hour, or $30,000-$90,000 per 10 hour day. That would add up to somewhere in the range of $7,800,000 – $23,400,000! Plenty of cash to pay for facilities, staffing and physicians. And done for about 7% of what Americans get charged.
Before you start thinking, “yeah, but that’s India…” (which is kinda racist, but we’ll ignore that) keep in mind that in Canada they are complaining that cataract surgery costs $500! They even consider $2,800 to be predatory pricing. So by that standard ALL US pricing is predatory!
The Bottom Line
Even if you want to factor in things like having nicer facilities, and paying higher wages, there is simply no ethical justification for charging 15-20 times more money. The only reason it occurs, is because it is allowed to. And although we’re only talking about cataract surgery, it’s the same with every other medical system interaction, from the billing for doctor’s visits to other surgeries, medication, etc. Healthcare is the single most likely thing to bankrupt a person in America.
The closest parallel to the medical system is water. It’s the one thing people can’t live without, and water delivery systems are highly regulated and government controlled to insure everyone has access to this basic necessity. The people who work in this field are easily as invaluable as medical professionals, yet they don’t hold society hostage, just because they can.