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Poor Quality Care and Medical Debt. Things of the Past?

December 11, 2019


It comes as a surprise that the prime cause of death for ill people in developing countries is not the lack of access to medical care. According to a paper published by The Lancet Global Health Commission, more people die from improper care than from no care at all. The Commission found substandard care to be “ineffective, wasteful, and unethical,” as it seems to be the cause of death for 5.7 million people in low and middle-income countries. By contrast, just 2.9 million people actually die in these countries because they do not have access to medical services at all. 

Strictly speaking, many people across the world are more likely to die from receiving substandard care than from being completely deprived of access. For developed countries, this is a sign that governments everywhere may need to continuously invest in high-quality healthcare. It may also mean that policymakers worldwide might decide to make some changes in legislation and education in the future. This can provide people with more information about their rights as patients, about prevention, regulation, and transparency. But is more prevention, regulation, and transparency needed in the US?

Shaping Transparency in Healthcare 

High-quality health systems come at a high cost and may prove to be hard to manage even in developed countries. That doesn’t mean that investments and innovation should stop, nor does it mean that a country should settle for standard healthcare. In fact, most American adults want more when it comes to healthcare, with transparency being one of the most popular demands. A new study by HealthPocket shows that 91% of those polled believe that medical services costs should be easily affordable for all. 41% even went as far as to say they weren’t always able to pay their medical bills.

Not so long ago, President Trump signed an executive order improving price and quality transparency in healthcare. The plan was to make it easier for patients to choose the medical services they need, by knowing the prices and nature of those services in advance. “Making meaningful price and quality information more broadly available to more Americans will protect patients and increase competition, innovation, and value in the healthcare system,” the order states. Democrats may not agree with the plans laid out by the Trump administration, but that doesn’t mean they don’t favor transparency. Their own plans are similar when it comes to making prices available to patients.

Is Transparency Enough?

Policymakers seem to be aware that most Americans would have healthcare providers lay out their services and costs like a restaurant menu. But is that enough? The answer seems to be negative, as 85% of the people surveyed said that healthcare costs, in general, are too high, and 51% admitted having gone without medical care on occasions because they cannot afford to pay for it. While policymakers are determined “to eliminate unnecessary barriers to price and quality transparency,” Americans may need more.

High-quality healthcare comes at a cost, for governments and people alike. But science has already demonstrated that this is the only way we can conquer disease and prevent untimely mortality. With social inequality still alive and kicking, 51% of those surveyed by HealthPocket said they believe that everyone should have the same access to medical services and procedures even if they don’t spend the same amount to get it. High-quality care for all seems to be the ultimate goal, but the means to get there differ among people and policymakers alike. When asked what the best fix for the American healthcare system is, 20.8% of responders said Medicare for All, while 32.7% said a new socialized system is needed. 9.9% count on medical debt pardons, 6.9% want policymakers to repeal Obamacare, and 6.9% want to replace Obamacare. While 9.9% look to the private sector for a new solution, 3% of those surveyed say they want healthcare to remain the way it is today, and 9.9% just answered that none of these solutions is ideal.

If policymakers really want to put patients first, they need to understand that high-quality healthcare means even more than improving price and quality transparency. Poor quality and high costs in healthcare are silent killers that need new answers for better results.