Sometimes I worry that I'm turning into a mindless enthusiast for my health maintenance organization ... but I hope I can claim to have kept my critical faculties.
But when I read something like what follows in Consumer Reports on Health, I thank my lucky stars that when I left the last employer who had me on a group plan, he'd recently switched us to Kaiser Permanente and that I've been able to stay with this HMO ever since.
Here's a bit of the article that inspired the thought:
That's something I'm never going to have to worry about with my doctor. At Kaiser all my medical records are computerized. Any drug I have ever taken or am currently taking pops up on the screen when any doctor or specialist meets me. If there are known interactions between drugs I've been prescribed, the screen will also flag that.
Perhaps as importantly, it is in the interests of Kaiser to keep me on no more drugs than I really need; the organization's incentives are to keep me healthy and see me less, not to perform repeated procedures. I'm sure that if I had some medical condition that was extremely unusual, Kaiser might also have an incentive to deny me access to expensive tests or a rare specialty. But most of what makes most of us sick is pretty ordinary; doctors see the same conditions every day. For those ordinary problems, the structure of an efficient HMO avoids over treatments.
The health insurance reform that will kick in over the next few years, assuming Republicans don't run Obama out of office, aims to push these efficiencies into more corners of the medical system. This doesn't scare me; I've gotten my health care from such a system for over a decade and the experience makes me confident this is a smarter, better way. Thrive, indeed.