Friday, May 19, 2006

Money Wasted on Unneeded Tests

Many unneccesary medical tests get order wasting millions in insurance, and ultimately, your money. Here's why:

  1. Doctors are no longer well versed in physical exams and use testing to diagnose (they should be used to confirm diagnosis).
  2. Doctors go on fishing expeditions when they can't figure the problem out and end up with lots of unuseful tests.
  3. Doctors get sued for missing something and so over-test to cover their arses.
  4. Patients demand testing not realizing more mundane methods work as well or better than the latest greatest test.
  5. Doctors and patients like testing--it's a gadget and it's fun.
  6. Doctors get paid to interpret testing. Their buddies get paid for doing testing. They sometimes have a financial stake in testing.
  7. Insurance companies pay for testing. They don't pay for more time with and thorough physical exams. This encourages testing and discourages time with the doctor.
Those are just a few reasons for testing overuse. The main problem is that consumers are shielded from the costs through insurance. If people had to pay fee for service, the best doctors, the best diagnosticians, would be in business and do very well. Patients would not be interested in spending $1500 for an unneccesary MRI when a $50 X-ray, or simple palpation would do. But patients/consumers are removed from costs so they are like kids in a candy store with medical testing. Doctors do little to discourage this because they fear being sued. Denying a patient his desired test and then finding out bad news makes for messy lawsuits.

In the end, no one is really happy. The high deductible plans will help change the system because people will be shelling out their hard earned dollars to pay for services. You can bet with the Internet and access to research, the consumers will be more educated and not so free with the greenbacks when they pay themselves. It's worked that way for our family.

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