When I was growing up, I remember my father saying the phrase, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” In today’s world, I find myself often recalling those words. Most of life these days should not be taken at face value.
It also appears that if you shout out falsehoods frequently enough, then it seems that members of extreme political groups will believe it as the gospel truth. Need I quote names here? Look beyond the words and examine the potential gains for those individuals who espouse those radical concepts. For instance, one such statement made recently was that the United States should again be divided into two distinct sections based on political beliefs, as was the case early in our history. We all can recall what happened then as a result.
As we move into the post-pandemic phase of living, much is being said about what was done correctly and what was not. Due to the urgency of finding a means of treating the COVID virus, which was responsible eventually for taking millions of lives worldwide, Operation Warp Speed was put into effect in the United States. It seems that the two main developers of the mRNA COVID vaccine took some shortcuts in that research was done on a limited number of test subjects — mice — rather than determining the effects on human subjects. As we are now finding out, there are some negative side effects of vaccine usage within certain sectors of the population. We know that hindsight is always 20/20. As a senior citizen with several chronic health conditions, I will state that I have received all available vaccine boosters, including the bivalent booster, and have not contracted the COVID virus. But with some recent research studies that have now surfaced, I must admit that I am questioning some of the actions of such groups, such as the CDC, the FDA, and the WHO. Transparency is the key to building trust. My thinking has been modified since the beginning of the pandemic. History will judge whether proper protocols were followed and, if not, what can be done to ensure that errors in judgment and protocol will not surface again should the world face another pandemic.
Since I’m taking the opportunity to “air out the dirty laundry,” another topic I’ve been frustrated with is the “facility fee” assessed by hospital systems. Hospital facility fees have been around for a while, and federal regulations have allowed hospitals to charge patients a fee in addition to the fee charged by the physician for medical services; i.e., hospitals “rebrand” physician practices and outpatient clinics they have purchased and issue separate fees for each. Ask me how I know.
These facility fees can range from relatively small amounts to hundreds of dollars. Many health insurance plans do not cover the full amount of these facility fees, so the patient is left to cover the bill.
What is especially perplexing is when patients are slapped with facility fees when care is received outside the walls of a hospital, such as urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, or surgical centers. Oftentimes, it is not obvious to the patient if the aforementioned locations are owned by a hospital system.
“Patients see little benefit when they get outpatient services by doctors or facilities affiliated with large hospital systems,” says Aditi Sen, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Sen goes on to say, “The data we have shows that these big health care systems aren’t raising quality, but they’re raising prices. We have to ask what are you getting for the additional fees.”
Isn’t it about time that we, as patients, expect more transparency and honesty from our government, our health insurance companies, and our ever-expanding hospital systems? The cost of health care in the United States is ever-increasing, and yet, the state of health of our citizens lags behind those of other developed nations. I think it’s about time for some positive changes. How about you?
Michele Luckenbaugh is a patient advocate.