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President Trump: Tell the healthcare lobby to get lost

President Trump: Tell the healthcare lobby to get lost

Picture of Steven Weissman
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Healthcare is a ruthless business; built on a foundation of political corruption.

On the morning of February 27, 2017, President Trump huddled with the nation’s top health insurers in a “listening session” and said to them:

I want you to know that it’s an honor to do business with you.  It’s a great honor to have you in the White House.

As past president of a Florida hospital, Trump’s “thank you” to the industry was a knife in my heart.

The health industry is methodically bleeding the nation dry, spending more on lobbying than the defense, aerospace, and the oil and gas industries combined. In 1964 healthcare was one-third the cost of an average family’s housing and utility bills. Today, healthcare is equal to housing and utility bills.

Citizens are stunned by exploding premiums, while the industry laughs all the way to the bank.

The stock of the nation’s largest health insurer (United Healthcare) and largest hospital chain, HCA, are each up more than 300% in just the last five years. “Listening” to the industry is exactly how we got here.

Follow the money: If sophisticated investors believed “repeal and replace” meant the cost of healthcare would drop, then the price of stock in the largest insurer and largest hospital chain would not be sky-high. Those in the know are betting on future growth in revenues and profits (i.e. higher healthcare prices).

It’s official: Pricing of medical services is the problem

The U.S. government has officially determined that rising prices for medical services is driving faster growth in national health costs and premiums:

Throughout the 2016-25 projection period, growth in national health expenditures is driven by projected faster growth in medical prices.

Insurance premiums are just a mathematical function of the cost of medical services. Politicians spew nonsense about premiums and avoid mentioning the actual problem, the pricing of medical services, like the plague.

Ask any hospital, lab or physician the price of anything and all you get is a question: “What insurance do you have?” A simple blood test for cholesterol can range from $10 to $400 or more at the same lab. Hospitalization for chest pain can result in a bill from the same hospital for the same services ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 or more. If you are out-of-network or uninsured you pay the highest prices.

Make no mistake, the problem is not a mere lack of price transparency. The problem is far more diabolical – it is the lack of any prices at all. We have a purely predatory system. Your price depends on how much can be extracted from you on an individual basis, often at your most vulnerable.

The reason U.S. healthcare costs are uniquely sick is because the healthcare industry alone has managed to successfully eliminate legitimate pricing plus all consumer protections. Price competition does not exist.

Industry apologists claim that everyone is actually “charged” the same amount but that we each receive a different “discount.” In actuality, this is a sleazeball scheme that prevents comparison shopping and competition, rendering patients defenseless against overcharges.

‘Legitimate’ pricing would crush health costs overnight

In December 2016, I delivered to then President-elect Trump a Petition to End Predatory Healthcare Pricing along with a 3,263 page roster of more than 104,000 signers. This event was reported in print media and was the subject of two National primetime TV interviews: January 3, 2017 and February 21, 2017. The administration has never even acknowledged receipt of the Petition.

Legit pricing would reduce health expenditures by a minimum of 33% - overnight (and the USA would still have the most expensive healthcare on earth).

Congress must compel medical providers to play by the same rules that apply to all other sellers of consumer goods and services. They should remain free to set their own prices. However, providers must be prohibited from billing each patient a different price for the same service – thereby preventing consumers from being able to shop pricing.

Legitimate pricing would also mean networks are obsolete. Nobody would ever be price gouged for being out-of-network or uninsured.

President Trump strategizes with industry leaders in the White House while former president Obama just accepted a $400,000 offer to speak at a healthcare conference. It’s difficult to be hopeful for real reform.

However, the desire for legitimate healthcare pricing is the one – perhaps only — unifying American issue. President Trump, drain the deepest, ugliest swamp of all. Tell the healthcare lobby to get lost and implement legitimate healthcare pricing — for we the people.

[Photo: Joshua Kehn via Flickr.]

Comments

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Lobbying should be criminalized when $ or contributions are involved. Sad that we are not protected.

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Asking Trump to clean up the US health care crises is like asking the banks to dictate their own greedy standards! What a shame in a World that shows how it can be done afford-ably and decently for everyone! European countries and their excellent, humane and affordable health care systems!

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I'm glad for this article. I never thought the problem was pricing. Now I see it is. I wish this endeavor to change the system will work.

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Thank you for this article! I would like to know how to get this out to millions of people! This is important information we all should read and demand that legitimate healthcare pricing happens!!

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Please focus on the way prices are set for the pricing and solutions for our healthcare support system. The problem with the Affordable Care Act is that the people were regulated, NOT the insurance companies. They continue to gouge the sick and healthy alike. Please drain the freaking insurance swamp!

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Do not repeal the ACA. You can strengthen it; make it better; fix some problems like not being able to negotiate drug prices. The GOP attempt at replacing it is laughable, but worse yet, it's horrible and cruel. I have been a caregiver for a cancer patient with great VA healthcare, but every week of the 4 years I was caring for him we heard from other patients whose healthcare had dropped them in the middle of treatment, or when they were diagnosed, or they reached their lifetime cap, or they'd formerly had cancer and now couldn't get coverage for it on different insurance, or their healthcare wouldn't pay for the treatment that their Oncologist recommended. Healthcare being available is not the same thing as it being affordable. I have a pre-existing conditon now...it's called ageing and it's incurable. I live on nothing but my Social Security and I cannot afford to have my medical costs go up just because the Republicans want to get rid of old people....unless their rich old people.

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How this has not become the biggest news storythese days of the HC Industry (and Pharma) being the biggest nastiest Robber Barons in our history is just scandalous! Come on "news media" do your job!!!

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All Americans deserve to be treated with respect, be able to see doctors, get their prescriptions and to go to the hospital for treatment when needed. We are letting the insurance companies control our medical needs and be greedy to the point of financially strangling Americans. We deserve better! We need to unite now to defeat the lobbyists, the insurance companies and all corporations that are doing this to our country and making us weak physically, emotionally and financially. We deserve better and so do our children!

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Thank you!

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Steven, thank you for the important work that you do, bringing the root cause of spiralling health care costs to the public's attention.

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Hey there, very good and informative list. We actually use a couple of these tools at the office ourselves but we've found https://www.tweetfavy.com/ to be the most effective one of them all. Have you tried that one out yet?

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Thank you for recognizing the healthcare lobbying problem. Facebook groups (ProPublica Patient Safety, Medical Error Transparency Plan, Mothers Against Medical Errors, Diagnostic Errors, Essure Problems Group and members of 100's of other groups) have shared stories of high prices & even harm. In fact, many of these groups are going to DC with bills for improving healthcare. Hope politicians listen.

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How can I get this to president trump?

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Implement legitimate healthcare pricing now!

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Do you really think these fat cats in Washington will step away from the trough to help the people?

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citizens have become chum for the predators - it is unsustainable to allow this to continue

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Thank you for this article. This is a true disgrace and I hope something is done about it.

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If we don't send big business a message and stop predatory pricing in the health care industry other industries may follow suit. There's already evidence that online retailers are sometimes charging did different people different prices for the same goods.

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The resident in the White House must stop playing games with American's healthcare and stop "LISTENING" to health insurers but START "LISTENING" to those who see healthcare for what it is at present - a pure, unadulterated predatory system!

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This is an excellent piece! I have been writing about this very subject in my blog because it is true that our elected representatives and the media blather endlessly about "coverage," but the phony pricing of medical services only jacks up premiums while doing nothing about the root problem of our health care system. I have read a lot about this from Dave Chase (who writes for Forbes) as well. You will be gratified to know that the doctor I work for as an independent contractor publishes transparent cash pricing for his orthopaedic surgery center, and it's bundled to include the surgeon's, anesthesiologist, and facility fees, and in many cases, the implant used, and much lower than hospital charges.

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Take a page out of Shawshank Redemption, send the president a copy of your petition every week until he acknowledges you. I realize that is a large printing bill, but isn't it worth it?!

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Book interviews 50 doctors about the healthcare crisis and the doctor patient relationship. Disturbing information about the insurance companies is consistently revealed. I Have Been Talking with Your Doctor: Fifty doctors talk about the healthcare crisis and the doctor patient relationship. Facebook and Amazon. Dr.PeggyRothbaum.com

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The HC workflow is wrong due to the fact billing is artificially separated from services rendered. This is why the costs are so high as delays built into billing are used to game the pricing for said services, something that has rendered the US hc system a travesty without question. No other industry works this way. This is why hospitals cannot accurately track costs keyed to patients and why records get lost. Until this is fixed, the system will never ever work whether it be single payer, no payer or the existing disaster we call healthcare in America.

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Billing delays, appointment delays, waiting room delays, and all the rest of poor service disappear with the sunshine of a public searchable feedback system. The government set up a web site marketplace but ironically the US Government bureaucrats could not figure out how to make a marketplace if it was right behind them biting them in their gluteus maximus.

I had the same epiphany as Steven W. about 8 months ago, not knowing of his campaign, and wrote a healthcare plan to offer a universal coverage option as well as insurance tiers based on transparent pricing and centralized public feedback, given anonymously from a key created out of billing codes. https://www.change.org/p/hhs-secretary-of-tom-price-one-published-pricin...

I spent weeks on a campaign to get through to Sen. Toomey but could not get further than a meeting with his staff. They liked the plan and wanted their chief legislative guy to see it but he wouldn't look at it. The closer to the top the more gutless to go against establishment. Trump is likely mostly alone in his quest to drain the swamp. One man can't do it.

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Mr. Weissman, I fully agree with your facts about health care costs. Also, we need to include all health. Dentistry has the same problem as medicine when it comes to prices and insurance. Dental insurance premiums remain low but the coverage is horrible. 30 years ago a premium purchased $1000 to $1500 of dental treatment. Today the premium has increased but the coverage is the same. Dental care costs much more today than 30 years ago.
Lynne Holland, a retired dental hygienist.

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Ryan learned a lesson Vote on AHCA-2 without showing it to the voters. That is us.

The Freedom Caucus has the upper hand by pointing out that the GOP promised repeal to their voters and did so in many ways. But they have the problem with a promise that every candidate made: cover pre-existing-condition, keep those 26yr old unemployed person living in your basement on the family insurance, and cover everyone which means do not force the shrinking of Medicaid list.

So we can get to national health care insurance market, the patents see the costs and determine the service and then choose, vote with their feet as Milton Friedman says in "free to choose," and have catastrophic insurance for the big stuff, But we have to help keep the promises made. Freedom Caucus this is where you will have not choice but to bend. Here is an approach on how to bend.

Big problem since insurance works because people purchase insurance before the need it. ACA ended that requirement. AHCA to reduce cost has to return to the principles of insurance.

So let us look at some of the people that the insurance companies define as having a pre-existing-insurance. They do not count a person that switch between insurance companies. So the catch is having a period of time without insurance not being covered by the same insurance company. So to achieve the goal change the method of defining that a patent paid for insurance coverage in the past. That is what is already used..

AHCA could say that the total life sum of health insurance coverage, paying for coverage, is to be used. All paid in the past which meets the rules for insurance sales. So the pre-existing conditions is covered up to the fraction of the patents life having health care coverage.

The national cost of those not covered shrinks. That portion falls under Medicaid or a state funded special pool.

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Congress needs to address the real cause for the excessive costs in healthcare in the United States, more specifically pricing policies/practices for medical services and drugs. The current solutions to healthcare reform does not address the root problem but will only allow for continued rising costs that the American people can not continue to pay. Different rates apply depending if one is in a network or not. Those uninsured are charged the highest rates. Unacceptable. Lobbyists and politicians need to be held accountable for this corruption. These practices must stop and real change to address this must start.

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Single payer is the best way to get the insurance industry out of the health cost equation and to make health care truly competitive.

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Think we will have to look to countries like Canada and Britain to find a better way to do health care. Insurance guarantees that people will have to fight for their benefits just when they are most vulnerable from their illness. No one has persuaded me that single payer is not the way to go.

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Just goes to show what the republicans agenda really is.give more tax breaks for the rich while killing American people.get out there and vote to get rid of these scumsucking heartless soulless morally wrong corrupt politicians.

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