Paying More for Better Medical Care

The wife and I took our son to see his doctor for a checkup this afternoon. His doctor is a family practice physician in a small two doctor office. He was the only doctor working today and covering the entire patient load, so we had to wait more than fifty-five minutes to even get into the exam room. Unfortunately, the office staff was rude, unhelpful and didn’t make our wait any more pleasant.

I commented to my wife that we wouldn’t accept this kind of service even from the trashiest fast food restaurant, so why do we suffer through it for something as important as health care. I realized the answer on the way home: We don’t pay for it directly.

When I go to a taco truck to grab a quick bite for lunch I reward tastier food, lower prices and faster service with my lunch money. If my lunch sucked today, tomorrow I can go somewhere else.

Because my family’s health care costs are paid for by an HMO that is funded partially by my employer and partially by funds deducted directly from my paycheck, I don’t have the same level of control for the service we receive. No matter how atrocious the service at the medical office, I can’t easily take my money and go elsewhere. Besides, other than my perceived quality of the service, what else do I have to rate the medical care on. I can’t rate it on its price, since my insurance is hiding most of the direct costs from me. No matter where I go, its always $25.

Last week, I read and article in Fortune Small Business that I meant to post then, but now is much more apropos: Its about a Florida-based medical chain is persuading thousands of patients to pay extra for doctors who do house calls and answer their own cell phones 24 hours a day.

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