A poll of Massachusetts residents by Harvard’s School of Public Health and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation found that regular people in Massachusetts are remarkably well informed about the primary reasons their health care is so extremely expensive compared to health care in other industrialized countries.
According to the poll regular people correctly identified overcharging by the different industry providers as being the top reason why health care is so expensive. Drug companies charging too much was first with 77 percent calling it a major reason for high health care costs today. Insurance companies charging too much was second with 72 percent calling it a major reason, and hospitals charging too much was a fourth, with 63 percent calling it a major reason costs are high.
In addition regular people simply don’t buy the frankly silly idea that the problem is a lack of shopping around for bargains. Only 20 percent said people not shopping around for a lower price was a major reason for high costs. The idea that very ill patients or even healthy ones with relatively little power and a huge knowledge gap can reduce costs by being smart shoppers is absurd.
Unfortunately the Kaiser Health News, NPR, WMUR and the Harvard School of Public Health all worked to promote the myth that regular people are somehow mistaken. From the Kaiser Health News:
Q [WBUR's Martha Bebinger]: Respondents say the high cost of health care is either a crisis (25 percent) or a major problem (53 percent). Why does the public say health care costs are too high?
A [Pollster Robert Blendon, with Harvard's Kennedy School and the Harvard School of Public Health]: The main reasons were excessive charges by pharmaceutical firms, hospitals and insurers. There was less concern about the things experts always talk about: using too much high cost technology, going to expensive teaching hospitals or not shopping for care. The big takeaway here is that 74 percent of respondents want the state to take action.
These so called “experts” who think the real problem is people not shopping around and using more expensive teaching hospitals too often are either idiots, hacks or a combination of both.
The regular people are basically right, and that should be clear to anyone who does a simple international comparison. Americans pay way more for the exact same drugs or procedures compared to other first world countries like Japan, Canada, Germany, France, etc. The biggest problem is not that Americans are using dramatically more health care or not shopping enough; the big problem is simply that Americans are paying dramatically more than those in other nations with equal or better care for the health care they use.
It is good to see that despite a widespread campaign by industry paid-for “experts,” many media outlets and politicians in both parties, the people of Massachusetts haven’t been tricked into thinking the problem is they don’t have enough “skin in the game.”