The recent 4 Corners program called ‘Wasted’ was a big step forward for Australia. This country lags behind other Western societies, who have been publicly debating fraud and waste in health care for some years. The winners of this misspent money are the pathology, drug, medical device industries and of course, hospitals. The losers are taxpayers and patients.
Australian health startups struggle to get funding for research and development, commercial development. But $50 billion a year is cheerfully wasted on over servicing, fraud, and waste in the traditional health system.
It didn’t’ take long after the Four Corners show went to air, for the well-heeled critics recipients of this excess, to complain. Medical and hospital groups felt the show was unfair. Is anyone offering to return the misspent money?
The Australian media is normally shallow when it comes to dealing with the powerful healthcare industry. Lightweight stories on overcrowding in Emergency departments are usually interspersed with ‘medical cures’. A constant background theme is what a wonderful health system Australia has. Occasionally a story of a hospital or nursing home error sneaks through. Sue Dunlevy at news.com does a good job of writing about huge and hidden out of pocket costs in private hospitals, even for people with top private cover.
This 4 Corners Show was very unusual. Doctors fear of litigation, pressure from unrealistic expectations from patients and the fee for service model of paying for health care were all laid bare. How many people congratulated Norman Swan and the 4 Corners show for a job well done?
The fastest growing cost for Western countries since WWII? Healthcare. The most error-prone industry in the western world? Healthcare. The most powerful lobby groups and professional associations? Healthcare. The industry with the biggest markup on goods and services? Healthcare. The largest employer in many countries? Yes, you guessed it. Healthcare.
It’s time for reform. And that starts with an honest conversation