Thursday, January 12, 2006

Consumer Driven Health Care Goes Too Far

The January 10, 2006 issue of the Omaha World Herald carried a column by Wayne A. Sensor, CEO of the Alegent Health hospital system, on the subject of consumer-driven health care.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, consumer-driven health care is the term used to describe the plan of having the patient pay directly for health care rather than have the health insurance company do it.

In his column, Sensor says that consumer-driven health care is “A new approach to health insurance that emphasizes choice, control, and responsibility.” He believes that it will “….embolden leaders in the health care industry to offer quality, innovation, and better value in health care and health insurance coverage.”

I’m not convinced. While I believe that patients should take a larger role in their health care than was thought proper thirty years ago, I am not in favor of letting health care providers as far off the hook as Sensor’s proposal would allow them to be.

For one thing, I don’t have that much confidence in my own judgment when it comes to picking a provider, even though I have spent my entire working life in the health care business. I want my provider to be publicly accountable for performance – not just accountable to me.

Second, I want my provider to be answering to a standard higher than keeping me happy. I still believe there is a place for professionalism in this business.

And finally, as an individual purchaser of health care services, I don’t think I would have much economic clout when it comes to bargaining. An insurer representing me and a few tens of thousands others would be much more effective.

I agree that market forces have a role to play in bringing our system of health care under control, but consumer-driven health care as recommended by Sensor goes too far.

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