Among the many changes that health care is facing in the next few years, the most important, and most stubborn to contain, is medical costs. Every faction of the medical establishment from hospitals, physicians, drug companies and medical equipment suppliers are in league to keep costs where they are - inflated and untouchable. The medical industry has two main allies in keeping their profits rolling in: the ignorance of the paying public about the true costs of medical care and our Congress that feeds off the millions that the medical industry pays it.
But now a simple mathematical change in the way co-payments are made might revolutionize this sordid picture. Right now everyone - you and me - make our co-payments as an absolute dollar amount. Upon arriving at a doctor's office, we are asked for a co-payment amount - $15, $25, $30, $50 - whatever your plan calls for. The dollar co-payment sheds no light as to the actual cost either paid directly to the doctor or what she finally receives through the labyrinth of your medical insurance plan. One simple mathematical change could uproot all of this.
The proposed change is that co-payments would be a percentage of the actual cost instead of a fixed dollar amount. Simple, but earth-shaking. A percentage co-pay would strip the cloak of invisibility off much of medical cost. If a patient were asked for a 10% co-payment of $30.00, the total amount of $300.00 would immediately became visible; $45.00 - a total of $450.00; $100 the $1,000 cost of an MRI, etc. Now, for the first time, medical consumers would know the cost of the medical services they are asked to pay. Now these consumers could make an informed judgment as to whether to accept offered medical services that fall in the gray areas of duplicative, not medically necessary or too costly.
Will percentage co-pays come about? Not if the aforementioned medical establishment has anything to say about it; and, unfortunately, they do. Complexity and obscurity of medical costs and payments are the best barriers that keep these costs and profits high and the simple math of a percentage calculation could do away with the cost smokescreen. Sometimes the fiercest battles are over the simplest of changes.