Friday, August 14, 2009

If Ticketmaster Ran Healthcare

I just bought two tickets to a show at the Ryman Auditorium this fall. Somehow two $42.75 tickets ended up costing me $106.70.

Let’s break it down, shall we? For two tickets we have:

• Convenience Charge, $6.95 x 2 = $13.90
• Delivery Charge (TicketFast, which means I print them myself): $2.50
• Order processing fee: $3.50
• Additional taxes: $1.30

Grand total: $21.20 in fees, charges, and taxes on $85.50 in tickets.

Gotta love it when private enterprise hits the service sector! They get you coming and going. What’s the difference between a “convenience charge” and a “processing fee,” anyway? Why am I charged for delivery? What delivery? I go online to the Ticketmaster site, download my tickets myself, and print them out on my own paper, printer and ink. Just who is being convenienced here, anyway? It’s just another way to fleece consumers so Ticketmaster can inflate its profits and company executives can make big salaries.

Can you imagine if Ticketmaster ran our healthcare system? Yet this is exactly how our healthcare system works. A friend whose husband is a doctor sent me this 2008 article from the newsletter of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. It’s called “America Un-Covered” and starts on Page 10. I highly recommend everyone read the entire thing, but this struck me:
”Thirty-one percent of all health care dollars now go to absorbing the administrative costs of the big carriers. Medicare has an administrative cost of 3 percent. When you are dealing with a system where every percentage point is 21 billion dollars, the costs are fairly significant.”

So 31% of every healthcare dollar is going to insurance companies--the middle-man who levies a “convenience charge” so I can have the pleasure of going to his online store and taking advantage of a self-serve feature.

You know what would really be convenient? If y’all came to my door at a time of my choosing, gave me my tickets, and how about a slice of chocolate fudge cake and a bottle of champagne while you’re at it?

You know, housecalls. Whatever happened to those?

Listen, I don’t have to buy concert tickets. Entertainment is a luxury item. Healthcare is not. If I’m sick or injured, I am getting treatment. I don’t want to shop around for the best deal, I don’t want to clip the coupon, I’m not going save up until I can splurge on that superfun biopsy. I’m getting my medical issue taken care of. And that should not be a for-profit transaction where some middle-man skims 31% off the top so his shareholders and board of directors can buy new jets.

This makes no sense to me at all. Basically the tea-shouters are hollering that they'd rather pay 31% more for every healthcare transaction, the cost of "not being socialist." Maybe we should call it a freedom tax. Freedom ain't free, yada yada.

The great irony is that the whole single-payer option was taken off the table early in the game. People are fighting against a public option. That's like someone fighting to prevent me from choosing the U.S. mail option on my Ticketmaster transaction.