A lot has been written on the American Health Care System. Proponents tout the amazing cutting-edge technology; detractors lament our poor standings in rankings for infant mortality and other measures of the breadth of care. The Affordable Care Act has changed the landscape, but not the players. In the Chicago suburbs where I live, we have several “super groups” of hospitals that compete for every medical dollar. Most are teaching hospitals with the best equipment money can buy. Is it a cost-effective way to take care of people though? After several years of waffling, I scheduled a minor surgical procedure and now offer the following observations:
- My local hospital is now the largest employer in the county. It is a non-profit teaching hospital that had a “surplus” of almost $200 MILLION in a recent year.
- The facility’s public areas are on a par with a 5-star hotel; granite desk tops, designer furniture, marble hallways, and plush carpeting everywhere. There are two valet parking zones for patients; (unfortunately, the valets were late the day of my surgery). I am not sure there is a connection between high-end furnishings and patient outcomes, but they obviously don’t need to hold a bake sale to keep the place open.
- The people are top-notch and there are many of them. Four different healthcare professionals verified the spelling of my name and my date of birth. My procedure was not common so I appreciated the surgeon himself using a Sharpie to mark the “cut here line” just before they knocked me out.
- I have no idea what the operation will cost me or my insurance company. People were polite when asked for an “estimate,” but explained that “the system” was not set up to quote costs like you were getting an oil change.