If you want to understand health care costs, go to college. No, that’s not exactly what I mean, I mean look at the cost of college. College costs have risen nearly as fast as health care costs and yet there has been no big outcry, just an increased burden for student loans. Perhaps if there were insurance companies for college tuition it would be a different story.
There are a lot of similarities between college costs and the cost of health care. First, the prices charged are not the prices paid by most people. Doctors have their fees cut by agreement and colleges cut their real fees by giving out scholarships, grants and other awards. In both cases, we should be asking what does this really cost. We should also be asking why the charges are what they are; inefficiency is a factor in both education and health care. In the case of colleges we have a lot of professionals on the payroll who only teach on a part-time basis. The rest of the time they are doing “research” and running their own consulting businesses (not the largest inefficiency by the way). We need a new paradigm.
However, the most startling similarity is our view of the services provided. We equate high cost with high quality, a faulty correlation. We want the best for our families and tend not to question the cost of the service or the value we are receiving. With health care we believe more is better and in education we think a big name and high tuition means greater success in life. In many cases we would be better off not having that CAT scan or spending any money on a four-year college.
There is a lack of accountability in both higher education and in health care; we are hoodwinked by our emotional attachment to doing the best we can for our children and our health. In other words, we find it difficult to be objective, to ask questions, to challenge the assumptions we have learned to accept as a priori. As a result, costs keep rising at what should be unacceptable rates and the organizations and individuals involved in providing both health care and higher education go on their merry way above the fray.