My Letter to President Obama on Health Care

Today, I sent my letter on health care to President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden.  I sent it Certified Mail to the White House. I also copied the letter to Georgia Senators Chambliss Saxby and Johnny Isakson and my district Congressman Lynn Westmoreland at their local offices. I am looking forward to seeing their response (or non-response) to my letter.  Because I sent two letters to the White House via Certified Mail, someone will have to sign for it.

Below is the text of my letter to President Obama:

August 12, 2009

President Barack Obama
c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Hello, my name is Matthew Chan.  I am a small business owner and real estate investor based in Columbus, GA.  I have followed your efforts to reform the health care system.  Like all Americans, I have a vested interest in this important issue.  I agree with you that our health care program is currently broken in terms of escalating health costs.  I also agree that the federal government should assist in fixing this problem because the existing system is starting to fail for so many people.

However, I advocate one simple approach that would quickly create change within the health care industry.  I ask that you and Congress work together to end the medical pricing cover-up that exists today.  I ask that you pass legislation that compels every doctor, hospital, and clinic to publicly publish and disclose the prices of every procedure, drug, supply, and professional fee they charge patients for everyone to see.

Regardless of whatever additional programs and stipulations you and Congress may decide to add to health care reform, I believe the singular requirement of medical pricing disclosure will have a quick and significant impact if passed into law.  Compared to what I hear is being discussed, this approach would be far less expensive than what I hear being proposed.  I believe this singular proposal would be supported by both Republicans and Democrats.

If we legislatively require doctors, hospitals, and clinics to publicly disclose and publish their prices, you can expect their peers, news media, and the overall marketplace in the private sector to hold those accountable that do not follow the rules.

Right now, if you walk into any doctor”s offices, hospitals, or clinics, there are no medical prices publicly posted or published anywhere.  You cannot find them on the Internet.  If you ask for prices, you are either ignored or you don”t get a bad answer.

There seems to be this unwritten, unspoken code of secrecy within the medical industry that makes it unseemly or a breach of protocol for you to ask about medical prices BEFORE you have services and procedures done.  And yet, everything I hear today is about costs.  How can we as citizens and consumers help in the process if we are not allowed to find out and compare costs between competing doctors and hospitals?
The current standard answer when you ask about costs is that the insurance company or some government program will pay for it so you don”t have to worry about it.  And yet, we as consumers pay for it anyway by escalating insurance premiums, harsher rules of coverage, and higher taxes.

The health care industry is the only major business I know where I, the consumer, am not allowed to know in advance and in writing the price I will pay until AFTER medical services are rendered.  And yet, I am expected to pay the bill with no say or advance knowledge of the prices.

I want to give you an example.  If I want to have major repairs done to my home, a contractor is required to give me a written estimate upon request.  If I want to have repairs made to my car, the shop also has to give me a written estimate prior to repairing my car.

I understand this approach is not possible during emergency situations. However, in non-emergency medical cases, I don”t think it is unreasonable to request and get a written estimate for common medical services and procedures in advance.

Every hospital and doctor has set prices for every procedure, drug, supply, equipment, and professional fee they charge patients for.  I know this because every patient eventually receives a computer-generated bill in the mail.

By requiring doctors, hospitals, and clinics to post and publish their prices publicly, this will quickly bring badly needed marketplace forces into the health care industry by encouraging more competition and efficiency.  Patients can then freely choose who and where they will go to for planned procedures based on their individual circumstances.

In conclusion, I believe that one of the fastest and least costly ways to advance the health care reform effort is to simply end the medical pricing cover-up.  I ask that you work with Congress to pass legislation that will compel every doctor, hospital, and clinic to post and publish the prices of everything they charge patients.  When that happens, we will start to see health care system improvements through natural marketplace competition and efficiencies.

Sincerely,

Matthew S. Chan

Cc:      Vice-President Joe Biden
Senator Saxby Chambliss (GA)
Senator Johnny Isakson (GA)
Congressman Lynn A. Westmoreland (GA 3d District)

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