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A plan by General Electric (GE) to put 85K workers on a high-deductible health care plan in...

A plan by General Electric (GE) to put 85K workers on a high-deductible health care plan in order to lowers its mult-billion dollar health costs falls in line with the trend of other major corporations, but not without a painful side effect. The company's heath-care business has fallen off sharply as the use of advanced imaging including MRIs and CT scans slows down. By at least one estimate, spending on advanced imaging fell 28% over the last five years as more families are forced to cover the costs of the expensive service.
Comments (12)
  • Tony Petroski
    , contributor
    Comments (6373) | Send Message
    " more families are forced to cover the costs of the expensive service."


    Yes. In the past, the MRI Fairy used to cover these costs.


    When people have low or no deductible medical coverage, then money is no object. The key to the whole health-care crisis is to have the customers pay most of their own costs out of pocket. "More families" always covered the costs (except for the deadbeat free-riders). It was just that those costs were buried in the "benefits" that the employee got at the expense of a lower salary.


    As Milton Friedman put it, in what direction do you think your lunch costs would go if you were forced into a "lunch insurance" plan at work?
    18 Sep 2012, 07:10 AM Reply Like
  • rambler1
    , contributor
    Comments (398) | Send Message
    Mine aren't buried being self-employed, and is there a pinch. My rates are being raised an average of 12% a year and that's because my state has rate caps. My doctor wanted me in for a blood panel 4 times a year, and I went until I had to downgrade my policy. A full panel costs $2,200 and the max covered is $500. You can be damn well sure I won't be going as frequently.
    18 Sep 2012, 07:57 AM Reply Like
  • 393934
    , contributor
    Comments (13) | Send Message
    If health benefits were paid into pre-tax personal/family health savings accounts, then people would indeed shop for price and make better judgments about whether tests or treatments are worth it to them. That advanced imaging spending has gone down with more patients having out-of-pocket exposure proves this. If patients were paying imaging centers, doctors, pharmacies and labs cash directly (via debit cards linked to HSAs), the prices would also decline, due to competition, transparency, slack capacity, and decreased collection expenses for providers -- i.e., by the usual market forces that operate elsewhere in the economy. High-deductible policies for catastrophic illnesses would be necessary for all people, but are relatively cheap.


    Government means-tested HSA funding for lower-income people would put them on a footing with wealthier people instead of dumping them into a 2-tier system with Medicaid. In fact, both Medicare and Medicaid could be eliminated in this fashion.


    Tony is right--there is no MRI fairy.
    18 Sep 2012, 08:10 AM Reply Like
  • bbro
    , contributor
    Comments (9323) | Send Message
    High deductible is the future...get ready to shop for medical care...
    18 Sep 2012, 07:18 AM Reply Like
  • User 402481
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    This is a double edged sword. I complained to my doc last month about neck pain. Without any physical exam, he ordered an MRI. I scoffed, and told him I was on a HDHP, so could we order an x-ray first? Come to think of it, he hadn't even asked how it hurt or how it might have happened. The subject changed and the x-ray order never came. He's just padding his coffers for his impending retirement. I'm looking for a new doc.


    I think HDHP/HSA plans are great in theory, and are cost effective so long as folks budget properly. But when they don't, costs add up real quick, and become overwhelming. Even though I don't like the idea of people going to the doctor for every hangnail when they are on a $10 copay HMO, I'm beginning to re-think the value of HMOs
    18 Sep 2012, 09:40 AM Reply Like
  • sisemen
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
    GE is failing to be a American company. First the insurance, then the pay cuts. The CEO promised 10% increase to investors and inorder to get the 10% he is making hard workers take pay cuts. Just another company fucking the working families of America
    18 Sep 2012, 09:49 AM Reply Like
  • good_n_plenty
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    It's a nice theory that all of this competition and shopping will force costs down but it's not ready yet. My doctor's office can't even tell me what things will cost because they don't even know. Every question ends with "you'll have to talk to your insurance company."
    18 Sep 2012, 10:15 AM Reply Like
  • maudie
    , contributor
    Comments (468) | Send Message
    Good_: It's not shovel ready yet.
    18 Sep 2012, 04:51 PM Reply Like
    , contributor
    Comments (1141) | Send Message
    I just signed up for a High Deductible health insurance. but cant use the HSA (health savings account) because I have veterans benefits which is BS as I usually only use for prescriptions.


    The one problem is so many people run to emergency room now just because of sniffles and sneezes with doctors charging hundreds of bucks for office visit is ridiculous. The one my GF sees charges 250/visit and she is lucky to spend 5 min with the doctor. he wants 2 or 4 times a year full blood panels (like above 2K in tests) for most part no reason other than to watch non-issues. Heath care is ballooning up because of these types of doctors and visits.


    18 Sep 2012, 09:16 PM Reply Like
  • 393934
    , contributor
    Comments (13) | Send Message
    This is why people should be free to choose their doctors and pay their own costs through HSAs--intelligent people like you can tell whether they are being overcharged or unnecessary tests are being ordered. By choosing wisely, costs come down.
    19 Sep 2012, 08:44 AM Reply Like
  • AuroraInvest
    , contributor
    Comments (60) | Send Message
    One get the lawyers out of medecine as doctors order tests to protect themselves from potential lawsuits. Two the costs of MRI and other tests are inflated because insurance companies have paid the "going rate". Shop around and ask for quotes from alternative suppliers as you would do for any other service, you will be surprised how the price comes down. I did this recently and my price was less than half what the insurance company would have been charged. High deductibles encourage these comparisons being made.
    19 Sep 2012, 04:44 AM Reply Like
  • 393934
    , contributor
    Comments (13) | Send Message
    I'm a physician, and I can tell you that you are right--doctors order lots of tests to reduce risks of lawsuits. Getting lawyers out of medicine means outlawing malpractice suits as a matter of public policy. Caps on awards bring down insurance premiums for doctors, but do nothing to reduce defensive ordering of tests--fear of lawsuits is the same whether awards are high or low (they are paid by the insurance company in either case). It is the public accusation of incompetence and uncaring that doctors fear.


    If malpractice suits were outlawed, there would be a lot less unnecessary testing -- many billions per year less -- and this, in my view, would be of greater value to society than adequately compensating those patients who were legitimately harmed by careless doctors.


    State medical boards, not lawyers and uninformed juries, should decide whether doctors are incompetent.


    By the way, I have never been sued, so this is not personal.
    19 Sep 2012, 08:52 AM Reply Like
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