Most medical schools today teach future physicians the basic facts about the difficult decisions patients make regarding health care costs.
Medical insurance has become more expensive and more confusing as costs climb and privileges change. It’s difficult for patients and those in need of care to understand the fees charged, and the costs involved, in even some of the more basic medical procedures.
For most of the recent past, caregivers have been able to provide medical care and treatment without getting involved in the Byzantine nature of medical costs. Insurance matters were handled by the business side, or by distant insurance companies with whom physicians themselves conducted little business.
But today, with insurance costs and deductible amounts skyrocketing, physicians are being required to consider the financial burden of patients. And they are being asked to begin considering that burden when they are in medical school.
Along with understanding the human body and the proper manner of treatment of ailments, medical students are now being required to take a class in the cost, as well as the value, of their services.
The Association of American Medical Colleges recently conducted a study and found that 129 of 140 medical schools required a course on the cost of health care of its medical students during the 2013-14 school year. Nearly 40 percent of those schools also offered elective courses on the topic
The change comes as the Affordable Care Act settles into being the law of the land. Not only do most insurance plans carry high deductibles, putting more of the onus of paying insurance onto the customer rather than his or her employer plan, but doctors are on a track to being rewarded for providing high-value care.
The bottom line is that patients are now more concerned with costs because they are being required to pay more of the cost. When patients are more concerned, their caregivers must be more involved and aware of what they are charging their patients.
“It is a dramatic change,’’ said Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer with the AAMC as part of the study report.
Dr. Reshma Gupta, a member of the teaching staff at UCLA, told National Public Radio the change in cost structure has created the need for physicians to understand the pain a patient feels from a pocketbook standpoint as well as from a physical standpoint.
“In the everyday teaching they get about clinical medical, what medications to prescribe, what’s the name of the diagnosis, we are going to add a layer to ever discussion about the value part of that as well,’’Gupta said.
It is fair to say this added level of education is difficult to administer to the medical students who believe they need to understand the physical more than the fiscal needs of their patients.
“They are so busy trying to master the basics of medicine, the science and the interpersonal skills, that I think it feels sometimes like this is one more issue they are being asked to master, when they have so much on their plate already,’’ said University of California, Riverside professor Dr. Paul Lyons to NPR.
The physicians, however, are learning that the cost of procedures and medicine today can actually be prohibitive, and that patients will forego treatment when the cost is too high. Therefore, they are being taught to consider alternatives to prescription medicine or expensive surgical procedures when explaining options to patients.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.