Hidden Costs of Healthcare — Who Pays the $363 Billion?

23 Mar

Today’s CNN Money included a story about hidden healthcare costs that aren’t covered by insurance, now or under the new legislation. The estimated costs are staggering — $363 billion dollars annually, according to the research group that performed the study. Examples of the kinds of healthcare services not included in the estimated costs include:

…ambulance services, alternative medicines, nutritional products and vitamins, weight-loss centers and supervisory care of elderly family members.

If we forgot about ambulances, someone wasn’t paying attention when adding up the numbers. I certainly don’t want to transport grandpa mid-heart-attack to the ER in the back of the station wagon. Ditto with supervisory care of elderly family members — we don’t need to warehouse grandma in an expensive facility just because she needs help cooking and remembering to take her medications. Supervisory care in the home (for as long as home is safe,) would be far less expensive and far better for grandma’s mental and physical health.

Some of these things aren’t paid for now under most health plans, which is ridiculous. Excess weight has been linked to numerous, serious, health problems, and it’s not always as simple as “eat less and exercise more”.  Not when researchers find out every day that something else causes weight gain (example — those antihistamines you’re taking for hay fever might be part of the reason for your weight problem.) But insurers will not pay for treating overweight or obesity as a medical problem, until it becomes a major, life-threatening problem, and a patient is a candidate for surgery. Which is rather like closing the barn door after the horse has run away, a fox has come in and sucked all the eggs and eaten the chickens, and that weird boy Seth from the next farm over set your place on fire and raped your wife.

I’m lukewarm on the use of vitamins outside of a) pre-natal vitamins, or b) obvious and medically-determined actual deficiencies (which are fairly rare in the US). Much has been written about the spotty quality and oversight of many companies, so I won’t add my pixels to that. But let’s say, I’m all for buying your own Flinstones’ vitamins. Or just eating a decent diet.

As for alternative medicine, I’m all for it, if it’s been proven via scientific studies and standardized testing to be demonstrated effective and safe.  As they say, “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine.” Medicine is good. But I do not want my tax dollar paying for, or my doctor prescribing, some woo-ful nonsense like Reiki or acupuncture or crystal healing or sprinkling fairy dust on the owie — these have more to do with faith healing than medicine. And keep your hands of my chakras.

But, yeah. Someone missed over $300 BILLION dollars in expenses. That’s a big whoopsie. We need to know how that was missed…and if so, what the hell else was missed. And we also need to demand that our tax dollars are used only to pay for real medicine. Ya gotta buy your own fairy dust, my friends.




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