Op-Ed: Reducing Health Care Costs Is Made Easier through Patient Advocates

By Merrill, Phyllis | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), February 14, 2018 | Go to article overview

Op-Ed: Reducing Health Care Costs Is Made Easier through Patient Advocates


Merrill, Phyllis, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


“The only way to pay less for health care is to pay less for health care.” — Dr. James Robinson, director of health policy, University of California Berkley.

Few political issues impact businesses as much as health care policy. Our employer-driven health care system means that health care is one of the biggest expenses companies carry, and rising health care costs are among the biggest impediments to wage and job growth. On the other hand, for those of us who choose not to have health insurance, a medical emergency can be the first step to bankruptcy.

After 30 years as a small business owner serving Utah employers in the insurance marketplace, I confront this issue daily — with both the rising costs of health care for our employees, and the challenges that our clients are facing.

For years, our clients were lucky: Utah’s healthy lifestyle and youthful population meant that we had relatively low health care costs. But just because our costs are low doesn’t mean that they aren’t rising. A recent report by the Utah Foundation shows that Utah’s health care costs are starting to catch up with other states.

There are a few reasons for this, and improving medicine plays a relatively small role. Hospitals, even nonprofits, have gotten better and better at maximizing revenue. Hospital administrators have realized that they can charge $1,000 for a $2 toothbrush or $3,000 for a $150 MRI and most people, yes, even insurers, won’t notice or do anything about it. Additionally, because people rarely can check prices before they go into a hospital, hospitals have little to no reason to relate their charges to their actual cost of providing services. Lastly, increasing consolidation in the hospital industry means there’s no constraint on health care costs other than shame and insurers’ meager leverage to negotiate better rates. In a market like Utah, where the largest insurer is owned by the largest hospital chain, that desire is especially meager. …

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