Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Wednesday's Words: Soaring Health Care Costs
My husband works for United Health Group as a programmer. The week before Thanksgiving a woman pushed a cart through his neighborhood of cubicles, handing out a small printed box to every employee. As my husband opened the box, he expected a bottle of cologne, (the size and shape of the box prompted that guess), or at least some sort of useful item--a gift as a thank you to the employees. When he opened the box he discovered a thick stack of cards. They weren't playing cards, nothing so useful, but about 100 cards printed in vivid color, with statistics and various propaganda like statements as to why United Health Care was so good.
If that health care company was so good, I would argue that they would use the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on those cards in lowering their costs. Instead they wasted money on a worthless promotion to recipients that were not even in a position of making a choice of what health care they would choose. And the waste of money didn't stop with the cost of the cards. They had to pay the lady with the cart to hand them out, which probably took her all day because the company is so large--and their Salt Lake City office is only one of many across the country. My husband told me how numerous guys used their cards to build things (they have notches in them to easily facilitate construction of a house of cards), thus wasting numerous man hours. The very next day, my husband was supposed to have received a turkey for Thanksgiving. The company had promised a turkey to all employees the week before. But my husband came home empty handed. He told me the company had changed their mind about the turkey and wasn't giving them out this year.
I think the turkey would have gone a lot further in promoting good will among employees than that set of cards ever could have. And it would have been a heck of a lot cheaper. But that would have been too logical and made too much sense. Those boxes of cards basically summed up what's wrong with health care companies today, (and it's not just United Health Care; most of my kids work for IHC and they tell me it's no different). Health care today isn't about making sense. It's about creating waste.