Healthcare Reform: Tower of Babel Syndrome Part 1

Tower of Babel Syndrome: Lack of uniformity plagues health care delivery in U.S.

Part I

Vague laws, inconsistent regulations and lack of uniform health care standards contribute to the “Tower of Babel” syndrome in our nation’s health care system today. This modern-day Tower of Babel is causing chaos and disorder in our medical system. Different rules and standards apply across the U.S. for nearly all aspects of health care, with standards even differing among statewide organizations.

Bureaucratic red tape overburdens our health care professionals, hindering their work and driving up health care costs.

This article discusses our disjointed system and offers a model for solution.

A real world example of a modern-day Tower of Babel occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and state government officials argued over jurisdiction and control in their own bureaucratic languages, similar to how multiple languages caused confusion in the Biblical story. While victims of the hurricane could little afford to wait, bureaucratic red tape thwarted relief efforts. No victim cared about laws or insurance regulations or legal jurisdictions. All that mattered to them was receiving adequate health care.

Our health care system is currently no different than the bureaucratic Tower of Babel in New Orleans. A maze of red tape exists everywhere within the system, but several parts stand out:

Each state requires a separate license for doctors, nurses, technicians and therapists.
Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements differ on a state-by-state basis.
Malpractice laws and health laws also differ on a state-by-state basis.
Insurance claims, rates, rules and regulations and payments differ in every state and change with every insurer.
Physicians must pay duplicate staff dues and process cumbersome applications to every hospital and state where they work.
We, the tax-payers, are paying a high cost for lack of uniformity in the health care system, and yet are reaping few, if any, benefits.

These examples are only a few of the many overlapping standards and confusing regulations in our current health care system. Other examples include licensure in health care. It too varies on a state-by-state basis, but for no obvious reason. The licensure process does not address the special needs of each state’s population, including those with specific health issues, such as high cancer rates or prevalent respiratory problems.

The complexities grow even more confusing when examining health insurance. Some states approve more than 1,000 different health insurance plans for providers and patients. Many of these plans evolved from managed care, more aptly called “managed money,” with neither providers nor patients looking favorably on the health maintenance organizations (HMO) that helped create this albatross. The insurers and HMOs that sell the complex list of benefits to the public (called health insurance) get entangled in their own web, and must rely on legions of attorneys to sort through regulations — which differ in all 50 states.

A 2004 study by the Cato Institute reported that health care regulations cost Americans approximately $169 billion per year – or $1,546 per average household – and that the costs of the regulations outweigh the benefits by a ratio of 2-to-1.

One out of six uninsured people has excess regulatory costs to blame for their lack of health care.

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