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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

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I totally agree - and as an aside, another indication of the lack of price control is "medical tourism". My neighbor has built an entire business around arranging medical tourism from the Bay Area to Asian nations for non urgent procedures at a fraction of the cost the same procedure would be in the US - and that includes the travel and lodging expenses.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

And the fleecing of the middle class continues unabated.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

And the fleecing of the middle class continues unabated.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Our current health care is a disgrace to this country!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

We all need to be healthy and should be able to obtain care when needed at an affordable price!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

America is THE LAST country on this globe to benefit from its own sick, what a disgrace and very disturbing. Time to put the lobbyists out of work and get in line with the ROW. Tired of the lies that this country spews.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I have quite a few Autoimmune diseases and over the 30 years I have been sick I have noticed how much prices have raised and I've come to the conclusion that it is unsustainable and will eventually collapse. I've discussed this with some of my doctors and they believe the same thing. All the while we patients keep paying more and more in co pays and co insurance and pharmacy bills and the insurance companies get richer. I met a woman who will probably lose their home since she is paying for her husbands insulin with her property tax money. We are in a terrible state and Trump's healthcare bill will only add to the misery!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

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. 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.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I am vitally concerned about how corrupt this business is. It is obvious that big drug companies are making an absolute "KILLING" off prescriptions. I just grabbed a card offering prescription discounts at the doctor's office and just because of that, I was able to "save", (in other words not get too ripped off) half of what the price was without it. Outrageous, because it is not the doctors getting the gravy, it is the administrators.
With respect, this monster needs to be tamed.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I worked as an RN (BSN) for >30 years. I still have my License in IL. I have seen the nightmare of Healthcare Corporations change over those years. I know you are correct. As a young Nurse I was instructed to be sure patients were cared for in a strictly, top- notch way or else. Over time it changed to being instructed to save money, not lives. My "last straw was watching even Hospice change into money grabbers, losing TLC .

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I agree totally, after reading this article and surmising what we all have been thinking they need to be railed in. We need to get this on a petition for people to sign and pass on to others. The healthcare industries are bullies, in the least, they take the most vulnerable people and charge them astronomical pricing. This has got to stop, all 99% of Americans will always be in debt up to their eyeballs. This has to stop!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Peoples wellbeing should not be a profit making industry. Get rid of the healthcare lobby: In fact get rid of all the lobbyist that lobby for big business. The job of the congress is to protect the constituents from big corp. Not to help the corps life easy to make more money. It seems we are becoming the United States Of Money.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Please truly reform healthcare. We pay a fortune for healthcare and impose "legitimate" pricing compelling healthcare providers so they play by the same rules as apply to all other sellers of goods and services.
When price competition exists consumers win.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

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. Why don't you open your eyes and see what this will do to normal, everyday people?

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

"Today, healthcare is equal to housing and utility bills". The cost of our medical insurance alone equals our housing costs! We cannot afford to actually use it for anything beyond our annual physicals!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

President Trump, You said you were committed to helping middle Americans. The Health Care industry and Insurance Companies are screwing all of us by charging tremendously inflated and arbitrary prices.

Follow through with your campaign promises and put a stop to predatory Healthcare and Insurance pricing.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I wish I could import my former health insurance from Germany

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I tend to wonder if welcoming, praising, buddying up, isn't a strategy of Trumps' deal making. He does that a lot if you notice. He even praised Obama and Hillary at one time.
You can not learn the workings of an adversary's mind if you piss them off to start with.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I would like to talk to you about the impact of including a voucher for procedures (worth is priced based on the local market) in conjunction with your posted single pricing for each procedure. I believe it will change the system rapidly to creating shoppers and competition. Please call me to discuss. I am retired and am available from 9AM-5PM PST at 503-705-0826.. or by email at Stevenj.Sharp@iCLoud.com

Steve Sharp

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

In 2007 our five-year-old son was diagnosed with ALL (leukemia). We were insured at the time, but even with that insurance my wife (51) and I (59), both professionals with graduate degrees working full time, have depleted our entire retirement savings and inheritances and have $40,000 remaining in personal debt and $50,000 in a second mortgage. How is this good for the economy? How many stories are needed before elected officials act?

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I am self employed and got a health savings account the first year they were offered (late 1980's). The promise was that I would be in charge of my own healthcare and could therefore shop for the best price. I quickly found that was impossible. I have been saying for years that they ought to require every provider to publish their charges for every service, so it would be possible to comparison shop. I would also recommend tax incentives to get people into high-deductible plans. That way they would be inclined to shop and the low cost providers would benefit.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

High risk pool (HRP) for pre-existing conditions? Who will voluntarily admit to such conditions if it means shelling out $1500 a month for the same coverage you'd get for $300 in the "normal" pool? Many of those condemned to the HRP will find it unaffordable and drop insurance coverage entirely. So why admit to having a pre-existing condition? Just cover it up and join the normal pool -- the government isn't in at position to demand and scrutinize your medical records, or require a thorough exam as a pre-condition for insurance. If you are "caught" later (via an insurance claim associated with a pre-existing condition), you, the government, and the insurance company will engage in an endless battle over who pays what, at which point you will lose and be dropped from future coverage. but at least you will have saved some money by avoiding the high risk pool altogether.

This is what the President calls "beautiful" medical coverage. Heaven help us.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

the problem health care is priced so high because healthcare insurance specially and drug companies and hospitals are overpriced and millions of dollars go to salaries and perks of these cons CEOs.there is so much fraud going on.we can lower the cost if we go to one payer system and dump all these dishonest middlemen specially health insurance industry and drug companies.i do not trust them to be honest.we pay so much to get health care for nothing.why other develop countries have government health care and in the USA we are at the mercy of these vultures.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

We need to move to a single payer medicare program for all. Medical services is a predatory system that is way out of line !!!!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

We have long allowed ourselves to be victimized by predatory insurance companies, providers and politicians. This needs to stop. Demand single payer, universal healthcare, Medicare for all today!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

The health care industry DOES play by the same rules as everyone else, at least every interest with enough wealth to bribe a politician. A few year back, Fortune magazine published a long article on "investing in politicians". They found that poitical investing produced the greatest rate of return of any investment considered, and that a rational business would invest in nothing else.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Mr.Weissman - I signed your petition, I asked my friends to sign your petition. I posted it on Facebook and I've personally written letters to the Congressmen, or women in my state as well as a letter to Paul Ryan and to President Trump. I was personally affected by the inability to price shop when I needed to get a mammogram last year. It wasn't going to be covered 100% by my insurance, but I was told I would pay the pre-negotiated discounted price. I called several different imaging centers trying to find out what that pre-negotiated cost was (so I could plan it into my budget) and not one of them could tell me the price of a mammogram, until on the fourth one I called I asked for the "cash" price and was told it was $150!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Dear Mr. Weissman,
Thank you so much for your good work, in spreading the truth, through this petition. As a former RN, a semi-retired, self-employed health care practitioner, and a Medicare recipient, I've watched this thing for a long time. For many years I didn't carry health insurance, but tried to take good care of myself and have, fortunately, been blessed with good health. I'm glad you're being interviewed, and hope more and more people will receive this particular information. The changes will have to come from the bottom up, but we're having to work on everything at once, so it's discouraging (and exhausting). However, the town halls have been a strong democratic force, and are showing that health care is a unifying issue, so we have to keep hitting on it, especially with the information in your petition. Keep up the excellent work, Friend!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Adding the insurance companies as middle men between people and heath providers certainly contributes to the higher costs we pay. If we had single payer as most other countries do, everyone would pay the same price unless they chose to "go private" as some people do in the UK. Then it's at least a real choice and not the coding scandal that drives our costs over the top.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I feel cheated. We see and hear ads on how great these companies are but in the long haul they are nothing but money machines and the machine is the healthcare companies. Why don't our politicians listen to us? Are they paid so well by these companies that nothing we say or do sways them? Where does it say in the Constitution (as I am constantly being told me) that we have to see that the 1% is so well taken care of? Where does it say that we are not equals, maybe not in money but surely in being humans that get sick, bleed, have families to take care of, breathe like they do. When is Congress going to step up instead of stepping on the voters?

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

We need legitimate healthcare pricing and a single payer plan.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

This article puts things simply but is still very eye opening. What's been happening in industry is out of hand and only getting worse. We must continue to put pressure on our legislators (and the unlimited amount of money in our politics) to end these practices once and for all.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I have been complaining,apparently on deaf ears, that is should not cost any different for a same medical service by location. Where I live the costs are higher than those advertised because they are based on geographic cost to insurance, making my costs outrageously high.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Stop the games! Quit the greed. Give Medicare to everyone and settle it once and for all! Provide the same health care that YOU get!!!!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Having been in, around and following-up on the handling of healthcare needs for over 60 years, I am appalled at the continued desire to make money from the misfortunes of others! That health care entities are represented on the stock market is a travesty. Healthcare is a right if humanity is to progress. ALL of us, sooner or later, require medical attention. That some medical education is very expensive is a given, as is some sophisticated equipment. Most ills, however, can be addressed quite inexpensively. It is time this country comes to terms with a single payer plan which covers everyone. Canada asks a small deductible from everyone's paycheck at the source, much as we pay our Social Security tax. Yes, there are problems from time to time. Nothing is perfect. But we can and must do much, much better!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Do you think that the guy who never even acknowledged your 104,000 signer petition, is going to listen when liberals now tell him what to do?

Our Liar-in Chief loves to hear the impotent screams of his opponents, and gloats as he ignores their demands and petitions.

The only thing to be done is elect a Democratic Congress in 2018 and a Progressive president in 2020.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

We Should be allowed to receive healthcare and prescriptions from Canada and Mexico legally.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

In my career I worked in many medical offices. This is just another way this government is failing the citizens of this country. The people in government are not in those horrible managed care programs, especially United Healthcare. The managed care for people on medicare is horrendous. Heaven forbid you develop a life threatening illness. You wind up paying all these co-pays for everything.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I am in major debt because the "500" decided I needed to pay more than I make so they would make enough from my formally generic meds to make 500 people obscenely wealthy and cause people like me in major debt! I usually get to the donut hole il July. My doctors helped me deal with the thousands in debt I have ammssed thanks to the wealthy owners of the meds I need every day. Why are they doing this to people? Iif it weren't for UNMC I would be in a world of trouble.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

I used to be a Podiatrist, I know this system both as a patient and a practitioner. A few years ago, on the advice of my physician I went to the local hospital to order a culture and sensitivity. An easy test - swab the wound - then transfer to medium in a petri dish, let it grow and identify it under a microscope. Simple and inexpensive you would think. They wanted $600 for that. When I went to the local non-hospital lab they wanted $55. Ridiculous. Nonetheless, his petition is mostly nonsense. Medical care has little in common with other industries. A free market would increased prices for everyone, because people are not in a position to bargain when they are sick. And many times the sick, old and frail don't have a choice when purchasing insurance. This is without a doubt the an unfair system, favoring people who are healthy and can afford insurance, especially if they get their insurance through an organization that is large enough to bargain well. And given recent history, it is clearly a system in which health care costs continue to skyrocket.

Unfortunately today the healthcare industry is so out of control there is only one way to reign them in. The same thing most wealthy industrialized nations do - socialized medicine. I am not a socialist and in general do not support socialist types of government, but basic health care and pharmaceutical costs in countries with socialized medicine are the same for all, and much lower than in the United States. In a socialized system the wealthy can purchase more, but everyone has basic healthcare coverage.

Such a system also needs to cover pharmaceuticals which are outrageously priced. The cost of R&D and court imposed penalties plus operating costs do not come even close to the money collected by this industry. Profits are very high. For the health of this country they need to be controlled and that's shy you need to vote for government insurance for all.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Cost of health care should be standardized and affordable.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

A very cogent discussion of the state of healthcare costs in the US. Would politicians should refrain from accepting $ from the lobbyists. Affordable healthcare for all should be a national priority.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Give us single payer healthcare - the same healthcare program for federal government workers, Congress, the Administration, the Judicial System, the factory worker, the teacher, the lawyer, the mechanic, the unemployed ( but they should get Medicaid if they qualify) - if there's only one system, then there shouldn't be competition for pricing, just one price for all. My husband died in an emergency room in London and I didn't have to pay anything to get his body out and return to the states.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

The continuing assault on the human rights of accessible, affordable health care is outrageous!
Do not destroy this American ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

It is obvious what needs to be done. It also appears obvious that most of the people in Congress are there for their own reasons, none of which appears to be related to the public good. Corruption in American has always been high. With tRump and Ass ocs. is will soon be astronomical. I think this may lead to internal revolution in order to be corrected.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

It's become a scam.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

one payer , get rid of the dead weight.

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

As long as healthcare is run as a business with nothing but profit it will never work in this country.it's bad enough that the insurance companies tell how this country's healthcare system is run with costs exceeding every year for profit only we will never fix the system.we need to keep insurance companies to stop soliciting our politicians with their greedy money to ever make it work in this country

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

Good timing as I am in process of composing a letter of complaint regarding inflated cost of cataract removal and doctors lack of concern . Doctor was informed on both visits, 6 months apart, that I actually feared driving 1 hour to work in the dark 5 days a week. Now that it is done, I can surely see, this procedure should have been done after the first visit. She received 2 extra visits to charge for.
The hospital charges are 5-6 times the cost of supplies I was charged for. Have no way of comparing all other charges, but I am sure they are as inflated. Almost gave up on writing as I know nothing will be done, but your honesty is so inspiring that I need to do it. Thank you for your concern for the people. Diane

Picture of <span class="username">Guest (not verified)</span>

We will all die in Poverty.
This is Healthcare only for the rich.

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