Socialized Medicine vs. Shoppers' Health Care

By Markowitz, Jack | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 17, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Socialized Medicine vs. Shoppers' Health Care

Markowitz, Jack, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A reader e-mailed. He was mystified by a suggestion that people ought to "shop" better for medical care.

There's no way to apply the usual cost-saving brakes when health is at stake, he said. A doctor tells you what to do, you buy the prescription, enter the hospital or whatever and that's that. Where's the opportunity to do your little bit against inflation in health care?

Fair question. But there lots of answers, judging by other readers' responses.

"We have become an easy solution society. Take a pill and everything will be okay," says a Monongahela Valley physician and advocate of health savings accounts.

"If you find your cholesterol is high, you may be able to bring it in line with a change of diet and more exercise. In my practice it is not uncommon to see fairly young people taking five, six and seven prescriptions -- without any question as to alternatives."

"Go back to the mid-1970s," e-mails a broker in Las Vegas. "No one had co-pay for office visits or prescriptions. They all had 'major medical' for catastrophic events. Now everyone feels a $20 office visit is an 'entitlement.'"

"The less people are insulated from the cost, the less likely they are to run to the doctor with every sniffle," says a researcher at the National Center for Policy Analysis, in Dallas, Texas.

Public health pressure groups hate that approach. Cut back on preventive care, they say, and we end up spending much more in the emergency ward. But, in fact, excessive doctoring statistically produces little overall health benefit, according to the NCPA.

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