Thursday, March 20, 2014

An unnecessary headache.

Every year, I get a physical exam. Nothing invasive, just a quick set of questions about my health and how I'm doing. Usually, it comes with a request to get some lab tests done, which until recently hasn't been a problem; the umbrella organisation of which my doctor is a part ran its own labs, they had reasonably convenient locations, and it was all nicely joined up. Now, though; oy. Sometime last year, the organisation closed its labs. They now have a contract with a nationwide lab firm, and it's very difficult to determine whether my health insurance covers getting lab work done by these people, and with other changes that have been made, it's very difficult to determine if all their locations are what's known as in-network or not.

What this means is that I am now dealing with lots of new worries about my healthcare provision, none of which should be happening at all. The only thing I should have to worry about with respect to my healthcare is "Am I sick?". Any other question should be unnecessary.

Odds are good at this point that I simply won't get the lab work done because I don't have the spare time to call my insurance company and figure out if they'll pay for it. It is frankly ridiculous that this is the case, and yet another perverse healthcare incentive; it's in the insurance company's interests to make determining this sort of thing as opaque as possible, because then IF it even gets done (not a certainty; and if it's not done, no payout) then it's going to be a non-zero probability of getting it done at an out-of-network provider by mistake, which lets them get away with paying less. Once again, the quality of my care is distorted and lessened by the profit motive.

I keep hammering on this point, and it bears repeating again and again: healthcare is a public good and should not be subjected to the profit motive. Pay the providers fairly, but cut the insurance companies out of the loop. They yammer on about "freedom of choice" and arbitrarily restrict our choices to confuse us.

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