John Stossel of the FOX channel and medical care: I have lung cancer. My medical care is excellent but the customer service stinks!


I was very interested in the comments of John Stossel as he was hospitalized and treated for lung cancer and his experience. I thought it was interesting due to Mr. Stossel’s liberal stance on the health care system. Mr. Stossel is probably the most liberal employee at the FOX channel.

John Stossel writes this from his hospital room.

Seems I have lung cancer.

My doctors tell me my growth was caught early and I’ll be fine. Soon I will barely notice that a fifth of my lung is gone. I believe them. After all, I’m at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. U.S. News & World Report ranked it No. 1 in New York. I get excellent medical care here.

But as a consumer reporter, I have to say, the hospital’s customer service stinks. Doctors keep me waiting for hours, and no one bothers to call or email to say, “I’m running late.” Few doctors give out their email address. Patients can’t communicate using modern technology.

I get X-rays, EKG tests, echocardiograms, blood tests. Are all needed? I doubt it. But no one discusses that with me or mentions the cost. Why would they? The patient rarely pays directly. Government or insurance companies pay.

I fill out long medical history forms by hand and, in the next office, do it again. Same wording: name, address, insurance, etc.

I shouldn’t be surprised that hospitals are lousy at customer service. The Detroit Medical Center once bragged that it was one of America’s first hospitals to track medication with barcodes. Good! But wait — ordinary supermarkets did that decades before.

Customer service is sclerotic because hospitals are largely socialist bureaucracies. Instead of answering to consumers, which forces businesses to be nimble, hospitals report to government, lawyers and insurance companies.

Whenever there’s a mistake, politicians impose new rules: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act paperwork, patient rights regulations, new layers of bureaucracy…

Nurses must follow state regulations that stipulate things like, “Notwithstanding subparagraph (i) of paragraph (a) of this subdivision, a nurse practitioner, certified under section sixty-nine hundred ten of this article and practicing for more than three thousand six hundred hours may comply with this paragraph in lieu of complying with the requirements of paragraph (a)…”

Try running a business with rules like that.

And you are correct that there are so many more rules and regulations in the delivery of health care and you the patients and the lawyers are responsible. In no other country in the world do they have so many rules and so many lawyers ready to assistance you in suing whichever doctor, nurse, physicians assistants and of course the hospitals, etc.

Adding to that is a fear of lawsuits. Nervous hospital lawyers pretend mistakes can be prevented with paper and procedure. Stressed hospital workers ignore common sense and follow rigid rules. Rigid rules are required and in a court of law is where they judge you the provider.

In the intensive care unit, night after night, machines beep, but often no one responds. Nurses say things like “old machines,” “bad batteries,” “we know it’s not an emergency.” Bureaucrats don’t care if you sleep. No one sues because he can’t sleep. What he doesn’t see is the nurses and doctors in the telemetry room watching those monitors each minute of each hour.

Some of my nurses were great — concerned about my comfort and stress — but other hospital workers were indifferent. When the customer doesn’t pay, customer service rarely matters.

The hospital does have “patient representatives” who tells me about “patient rights.” But it feels unnatural, like grafting wings onto a pig.

I’m as happy as the next guy to have government or my insurance company pay, but the result is that there’s practically no free market. Markets work when buyer and seller deal directly with each other. That doesn’t happen in hospitals.

You may ask, “How could it? Patients don’t know which treatments are needed or which seller is best. Medicine is too complex for consumers to negotiate.”

But cars, computers and airplane flights are complex, too, and the market still incentivizes sellers to discount and compete on service. It happens in medicine, too, when you get plastic surgery or Lasik surgery. Those doctors give patients their personal email addresses and cell phone numbers. They compete to please patients.

What’s different about those specialties? The patient pays the bill.


Leftists say the solution to such problems is government health care. But did they not notice what happened at Veterans Affairs? Bureaucrats let veterans die, waiting for care. When the scandal was exposed, they didn’t stop. USA Today reports that the abuse continues. Sometimes the VA’s suicide hotline goes to voicemail.

John, this has been going on for decades and is an true example of government running a health care system.

Patients will have a better experience only when more of us spend our own money for care. That’s what makes markets work.

Finally John, you understand the problems. You can not have a system that delivers great health care at reimbursements which are discounted so that hospitals and the care delivery personnel have difficulties in managing their offices and hospitals, labs and rehabilitation facilities, etc. as well have so many rules to follow other wise some lawyer steps up to sue anyone and everyone. We need some modifications to make the system work and this I have been harping on for years

And finally Mr. Stossel has it correct, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t work and creates a very poor system for a patient who wants more than medical care…. customer service…..not paid for by the ACA, Medicare or Medicaid. Get real Mr. Stossel.I am always amused at the high and mighty liberals who want it all but don’t want to pay for it. Complain, complain, and complain!

Things may be changing in the right direction though as a new set of codes being added to the huge set of ICD-10 codes used for billing. Now the physicians can bill for discussion and assisting parents and their families with end-of life decisions.

Sorry about posting this one late but I am abroad and the Internet available…is not always available. I know, I am spoiled as most of us are here in the good old USA.

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