This Forum has ranted a lot of times about the economics of health care in the
United States. Specifically, the pay-for-procedure economics
of health care means that providers make money when people are treated for
problems, and don’t make money if a patient is healthy. Keeping patients healthy is just a
prescription for losing money for health care providers.
A new study shows this problem in mind shattering detail. If a hospital botches a surgery for example, and the patient has a severe post operative infection, the hospital makes more money.
|Brian Harkin for The Wall Street Journal|
A new study found complications
can boost a hospital's bottom line.
Surgical complications such as infections and procedure-related strokes were on average twice as lucrative as operations that went smoothly at one large hospital system, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston Consulting Group and
Health Resources, reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical
That this should surprise anyone who knows basics economics would only mean they think they know basic economics. Individual health care providers may indeed be highly motivated to preserve the health of their patients through measure designed to prevent illness and injury. The system though makes money off illness and injury. To expect them to reduce their income just to keep people healthy is idiotic. And the same can be said about a system whose incentives are not to keep people healthy.