Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - November 20, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Reducing High Medical Costs The Cedar Rapids Gazette: Wed.. Nov. 20, 1971 By Sylvia I'ortcr NEW YOKK _ ITKM; In New York City, tht> avcraKo hospital room cost is now well over a day and, hy next spring, room rales are expect- ed to rise to an average of a day. Nationwide, the average cost (if spending a single day in a hospital room has crossed ITEM: In just the seven months since federal wage- price controls expired, physicians' fees have been ris- ing at n yearly rate of 19.1 percent and hospital charges, at a rale of 17.7 percent. Hos- pital charges and doctor hills are now rising at almost twice the overall inflation rate. ITEM: Most of these added costs come directly out of your pocket, in the form of in- surance premiums and cash payments for health services. And these costs are on top of soaring costs for food, fuel, housing, virtually all other items. An obvious area in which we must concentrate our anti- inflation battle is in the health services cost spiral. Blue Cross plans the nation over have for years been urged to develop "utilization review" programs to monitor length of hospital stays and other fac- tors contributing to our fantas- tic outlays for hospital costs. Review Schemes Some 17 Blue Cross plans are slated to launch computerized "Plan Utilization Review" schemes by next summer. But the vast majority of Blue Cross still have nnt put into action really effective utiliza- tion review measures. About hospitals throughout the U.S. are now boasting that they offer some form of outpatient surgery. In many, if not most cases, a tient can be in and out of a hospital before dark. The cost of same-day surgery is between 20 and percent of the cost of staying a day or two in a hospital. In the words of Walter McNerney, president of the Blue Cross organization, "As many as three out of medical procedures could probably be performed as ef- fectively, and certainly more economically outside the hos- pital or on an outpatient basis." Yet, only a small minority of U.S. hospitals arc using this cost-reducing measure to the fullest possible extent. High Costs How many hospitals offer seven-day-a-week hospital care reducing the high, cost of entering a hospital on Friday, among other obvious beneficial cost reductions? How many actually offer self-care facilities for patients who aren't very sick who, for inslanee. are undergoing diagnostic tests, diabetes care, preparation for surgery, stroke rehabilitation and who are perfectly capable of looking after many of their personal domestic needs and doing without costly nursing care? How many hospitals have genuine consumer representa- tion on their boards or effective consumer complaint mech- anisms (ombudsmen) which might bring the people who are paying the bills and who could make valuable contributions into the system? Home Care We still are paying only a pittance for home health ser- vices (visiting nurses and home health aides homemakcr service Yet, it's a well-established fact that home health care costs only a frac- tion of hospital care and often is superior. We Mill are paying only relatively small sums for preventive, outpatient semens vs. inpalienl and acute care. Coffee Thrower Scalds Lion WORCESTER, Mass.