Healthcare is not a Right was written by philosopher Leonard Peikoff at a town hall meeting on the Clinton Health Plan (a step to provide universal health care) in 1993.  It’s been updated by Lin Zinser in 2007. Depending on who is elected the next president and changes in future healthcare reform, I’m sure we’ll see more updated versions of this idea.

I want to shift the conversation. I’m not a philosopher, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a lawyer and I’m not a politician; I’m a person who helps working adults struggling with their healthcare, get the care they paid for.

When people are getting healthcare they pay for and it’s not working, it is a consumer right, not a human right.

In what other industry does the average person give a blank check to do whatever services are needed and wait for the actual cost after it’s done even in non-emergency situations?

This process of keeping consumers in the dark and figuring the details out later has allowed prices to be insanely skewed (and insane is not an exaggeration when you look at this medical cost comparison chart between the US and all other developed countries). There are many doctors, dentists and therapists I have met and worked with who do up-front pricing and they make a great living. If a business stays afloat because of “surprise” charges, it’s not a good business.

Up-front pricing is the biggest change in the healthcare industry that I fight for as a consumer right. Before I see the doctor, I want to know how much it will cost. Before I get this diagnostic test, I want to understand what it’s going to tell me and how much it will cost. Even in the emergency room where they deal with a lot of non-emergencies, there is a master spreadsheet of the cost of services and I want to see that while I’m waiting for hours to get served. We can only act as smart consumers if we know the prices and we understand why we are getting the care we get.

The idea that hospital pricing is so expensive to “make up for the people who don’t pay” is absurd. I’ll believe it when I see some actual numbers behind that sentiment. Time and again reviewing medical bills from hospitals, I don’t see how any middle class person, let alone low-income or impoverished, can afford the many hundred plus percentage markup (still not exaggerating) for routine care and standard diagnostic testing. If non-profit hospitals have a problem covering care for those who can’t afford it, either don’t be a non-profit business, or realize that not even the average American can afford your services because you don’t seem to know how to run a business. It is not your right to make patients pay for your poor business decisions and call it healthcare.

In order to drive down costs, though, healthcare industry leaders and researchers keep trying to get patients to simply not get healthcare. If patients could just avoid getting or being sick in the first place, we don’t have to pay for it. Prevention does not work 100% of the time. All of us will be sick and/or injured at some point in our lives. Disease is a part of all of our lives and all of us will die. This is the dumbest way I’ve heard to reduce pricing in the short-term. People need healthcare and we can blame them all we want for their bad health because they are old or unlucky enough to have a chronic illness that we don’t fully understand, but the truth is that healthcare pricing is inflated. Big time. Compared to all other consumer goods since 1965 that have risen 8x in cost, healthcare has risen x274. 274 TIMES GREATER! And the healthcare people are receiving often isn’t anything new or fancy that required billions of R&D dollars and time. It’s simple stuff. An old idea and technology that someone a short time ago decided to simply charge more to see if insurance and patients would pay for it.

Time and again I encourage and reassure patients that “that thing you are complaining about” you can actually demand that now. You don’t have to wait for policy change. Keep pushing for the rights you have.

Other Consumer Rights in Healthcare to consider

-Transparency in bonus or referral pay when a doctor refers you for outside testing (did you know that many hospital doctors get bonuses for referring you to other hospital doctors and extra diagnostic testing?)

-Predatory lending for spa medical treatments

-Being able to say “no” to a treatment or service in the exam room

-Clarity in your treatment options


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