TECH/POLICY: Why health care costs so much, part 37

Bend OR, pop 100,000, now has 8 MRI machines. That compares to the fact that all 97 million Canadians have to share one MRI in downtown Saskatoon that’s only available on Tuesday mornings when they take the cow that shares the barn they keep it in out for a walk. But don’t worry about that having any impact of practice patterns or health care costs — Oh no.

The idea that physicians will inappropriately order MRIs as a way to make money, said Jim Kronenberg of the Oregon Medical Association, is a bit of a leap in judgment.

Meanwhile the New York Times reports on the ongoing case of proper fraudulent medical embezzlement, rather than the legal kind going on in Oregon and the rest of the nation.

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  1. Whether we realize it or not we (at least those of us paying taxes and carrying insurance) are paying for the cost of fraud and underutilized equipment and the anti-regulation crowd includes folks who are profiting from this, who wouldn’t with tighter controls. I know I’m oversimplifying, but when I lived in California, my vet belonged to a regional consortium that shared high dollar equipment to minimize patient cost (because people put dogs to sleep if the tests are too expensive)–in short the vet market is regulated by market factors related to price. My dog got great care for reasonable cost because my vet’s overhead wasn’t out of line. I never see doctors or hospitals trying to do this anymore–everyone wants their own equipment to increase the “value-add” they provide and because we don’t put people to sleep when they cost too much (meaning there is no market regulation based on price), patients pay until they run out of money and then we taxpayers and insurance premium payers pay a little more. Right now our county hospital loses money and has the best equipment (duplicated by three for profit hospitals as well) courtesy of our community’s property taxes. Their argument is that if they can’t keep up with the capabilities of the “for profits” they won’t get “paying” patients.