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Even the All-Knowing Alexa Bot cannot Fix our Healthcare System

If the CEOs of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase were looking to catch the interest of the American citizens when they announced last January about their collaboration to create an independent healthcare company that aspires to put right the wrongs in the country’s healthcare system, they were definitely successful, because we are all paying attention.  Although the partnership’s ultimate goal relates to all US citizens, their immediate targets are the individuals currently working for them, with the numbers around 1.2 million.

Through a press release, the three companies informed the public that they plan to attend to the healthcare of their 1.2 million US employees.  The move is focused on lessening healthcare expenses which can lead to bettering patient satisfaction.  The US healthcare system has too many restrictions, and the alliance aims to provide for an independent company that is not as restrictive.  The new company is also set to be directed to utilizing technology to provide employees with the best healthcare services possible at affordable prices, and is not centered on profit making, most unlike the other healthcare providers at present.  This sounds promising, especially when we think about the possibility of the new healthcare company being available to all US citizens, but looking at the where the US healthcare right now – it looks like not even Amazon’s all-knowing bot, Alexa can remedy the system.


The primary reason why the status of US health care system is something that cannot be easily fixed is because the problem lies within its basic framework that is in total disarray.


Americans spend more on healthcare than anyone else in the world, making the US health care outrageously expensive.  The country reportedly has an annual healthcare expenditure of 2.8 trillion dollars, which is way too much compared to other countries. Commonwealth Fund’s David Blumenthal, the executive director of the non-profit organization said that if the US healthcare is to separate from the country to produce its own economy, it will be positioned at the number five spot of the largest economies in the world, saying it will be superior than the UK and France, and just a few spots behind economy giants like China, Germany, Japan, and the United States itself.

Frequent doctor visits or seeking medical assistance is not the basis behind the overspending of the country on healthcare, in fact by standard the occurrence of doctor visits by American is lower compared to other countries.  What makes healthcare expensive is that we pay more when we make these doctor appointments.  With the US healthcare, it is all about “price per unit”, everything from drugs, doctor’s fees, tests, imaging scans – they all are more expensive in the country than anywhere else in the world.  Let us look at the drug Nexium as an example; it appears that in the Netherlands you can buy it at $23, while here at home, you have to pay $215. These price differences can largely be attributed to the existence of rules on price control, which the country does not have.


The system of the US healthcare is what experts call “fee for service” based.  This means that doctors can earn money by just prescribing treatments, regardless of whether it is successful or not.  Let us say for example, an individual decides to consult a professionally qualified doctor for an injured hand to be able to finally regain full functionality of their arm.  That individual makes an appointment with the doctor, and the doctor explains that the only treatment possible is by performing surgery.  The patient decides to heed the doctor’s advice and undergoes the surgery.  Whether the surgery is a success and the patient ends up with full functionality of their hand, or even if it is a failure – these have no bearing on whether the doctor will be paid or not. His or her fees are not negotiable.


According to an analysis in 2015 by the Commonwealth Fund, the administrative costs are at 25% of the total costs of hospital spending.  Compared to other countries with nationalized healthcare systems, our healthcare billing departments are much bigger.


US citizens not only spend a lot of money with the advancement of technology in the medical field, we also use more of them compared to other nations.  American patients reap benefits of larger accessibility to the latest advancements in  MRIs, CT scans, PET examinations among other things. But unfortunately, path-breaking technology is not affordable at first, and the people who have the technical know-how to operate this technology do not come cheap. This just shoots up the average cost of treatment for a patient.

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