I just completed a series of radio and TV interviews about the extent to which people participate in their health care you know, those three-questions-in-90 seconds blips that currently constitute news for the viewing/listening public.
The question about how individuals can get a handle on their health care costs came up again and again. And so I had a lot of practice coming up with a useful 50 word answer.
My primary aim was to make the case for increasing the value of the care we have access to-- that we each have to participate knowledgeably and actively if we are to get safe, decent care. So sometimes I urged people to respond to prevention and health promotion guidance. Sometimes earlier questions set me up to direct people to make uses of community and online assistance in deciding whether, when and where to seek care. Sometimes it was more to the point to talk about using good judgment about using informal and clinical resources.
But other times the correspondent asked the question in such a way that it was clear that this was a shopping problem: How do I get the best care for the least amount of money?
Heck if I know. Should I have replied: Know your health plan? Ask the price before you make an appointment, get a test or accept a prescription from your doctor? Talk about the specific costs of your care with your physician? Or simply You can't'?
A recent article in the Business section of the NYTimes addressed this problem obliquely. While mistakenly attributing the ballooning cost of health care primarily to our lack of access to such information, it reiterated just how inaccessible cost information is to us.
I am glum about my inability to respond elegantly and usefully to a question that reflects the concerns of millions of Americans. Perhaps I am forgetting something?
How would you answer this question? Give it your best shot: 50 words or less.