With the political party debates getting under way leading to the US presidential election, the subject of national healthcare has once again garnered some attention. In the last go-around, with the male Clinton in the office, national health insurance became a hot topic but was eventually shelved. It is a known fact that the US is the only industrialized country in the world with no national health coverage and many of its citizens have little or no health benefits. Worse yet, there are no meaningful regulations to even protect the working class. That leaves the entire nation's health at the mercy of the market conditions.
Judging by my latest experience I understand why healthcare is such a controversial topic in this country. Recently my company switched our health insurance provider to Oxford. During the introductory meeting, the Oxford representatives repeatedly emphasized that Qwest Diagnostics was no longer a covered provider and we were to use LabCorp for all medical tests to receive any coverage. It was explained that LabCorp was selected because of their superior service to patients. But it was obvious that there had been a fierce showdown between Oxford and Qwest over money and in a retaliatory move Oxford had dropped Qwest as a covered lab. The animosity between the two was blatantly palpable.
To me this was a non-issue. I have no allegiance to Qwest and In my latest visit for a regular blood work I saw little difference between LabCorp and Qwest. What struck me was the bill I received from LabCorp a few weeks later. The actual cost of the blood test was $271.00, but it was adjusted down to $26.88. That means that by being part of the Oxford network, my final bill was discounted by a whopping 90%.
I understand negotiated rates and volume discounts, but how is it that a company charges its clients so much while it can still make a profit at a 90% discount? How could they get away with charging such an outrageous rate, when they obviously do just fine at 10% of that? If I weren't insured, I would be liable for the full $271.
I might be able to accept such disparity if this was for a luxury item, but health coverage should never be considered luxury, should it? And yet, receiving this telling bill, I can understand why uninsured people skip medical care, or buckle under their mounting medical bills. Is it fair that the wealthiest country in the world has left a large portion of its population without proper medical care and the rest at risk of losing what coverage they might have?