Thursday, August 7, 2008

Health Care Costs

It is generally acknowledged that exotic technology is a big factor in the increasing cost of health care. But here is something small and boring.
In June my wife fell and both dislocated her shoulder and broke it. Actually she broke her arm. Presbyterian Health Services took marvelous, if not exactly speedy, care of her. Today we got seven envelopes in the mail from Presbyterian Insurance Company, her insurance provider. It cost 32.4 cents to mail each envelope. The ten envelopes contained, among them, ten statements about a particular treatment activity. Each had a number. With each statement there was a sheet headed, "This is not a Bill," and explaining "how your bill was processed." Except for the number in the upper right hand corner, each of the ten sheets was the same.
Somehow the Pres computer figured out how to put three of the sheets into an envelope containing a second sheet. But why, I wonder, couldn't the computer figure out how to put all ten statements into one envelope and then to enclose one additional sheet, perhaps with ten numbers on it? Perhaps, more than one treatment item could have been put onto a single sheet. It seems to me that the treatment statements could have been collected onto two sheets. Each item could have that all important number. Then a single sheet containing all ten numbers could explain that, "This is not a bill."
Savings? Not much in dollars. Maybe $3.00 in postage, plus nine envelopes and possibly 17 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper. The total cost of the paper would be almost nothing. But Pres could run an ad saying it saved trees. In today's piously green environment, that might be important. A nice billboard along the interstate. The offset would the cost of some programming that should have been done in the first place.

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