Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist


Have you ever tried to sell anything? If so, have you ever been concerned about maintaining your price against competitors known and unknown? It is a tough job, the toughest job I know. Although education and market knowledge are important, real salespeople often seem to be born – not made.

Now, for purposes of this column, I am going to use the term “medical industry,” and I will define it to be inclusive of insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, urgent care facilities, fire department EMT services, extended care facilities, rehab facilities, hospice care, funeral homes ad nauseam.

Additionally, all the second- and third-tier suppliers to these named facilities will be included. If it has to do with birth, life care, end of life care or burial, it is included. If I have left anything out, assume it was an oversight and add it in.

Take “medical industry” to include every iota of business that has anything to do with human health. Heck, throw in the VA, St. Jude’s, Planned Parenthood, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, medical schools, nursing schools, your local gym and the YMCA, too. All of it. Everything. Got it?

Make this the mother of all government shutdowns.

Tell the medical industry – as I have defined it – that all government payments are frozen, all contracts canceled and the government will not make one payment to anyone in the medical industry until, it, the medical industry, comes up with a plan that, in aggregate, reduces the cost of the medical industry as a percentage of the GDP in this country to 6 percent.

By the way, they must cover pre-existing conditions in their calculations. Tell them they need to scurry and get together and present a plan to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that satisfies that office that they have made the reductions necessary to get to 6 percent of GDP. They can organize themselves any way they want to make this happen, but they need to hurry, because the spigot is turned off until there is a bona fide plan ready to implement.

Don’t think this can happen quickly? Wars and invasions of larger scope than this have been stopped quicker. Think Japan, summer of 1945.

The medical industry has pulled the biggest scam in history. It makes Bernie Madoff look like a pickpocket. Makes all the kleptocracies of the 20th century – and they were legion – look like amateurs.

Go back to my first paragraph. Think about how hard it is to sell anything. The medical industry has used the canard that “we save lives” to dupe us into paying whatever they charge. As long as we accept that as the truth, they will keep jacking up prices. They have succeeded in turning the selling function upside-down.

There is nothing worth more than what reasonable buyers and sellers in an arm’s length negotiation is willing to pay. All prices for all things are arbitrary and must take into account contemporary universal circumstances.

Sometimes, we will pay more for items than others. For instance, if you had just walked across the Sahara Desert, had $100 in your pocket, you might be willing to pay $100 for a cup of water. If you had just finished your lunch and were walking down the street, a small boy offering to sell you a bottle of water for 50 cents may not interest you. Same water, different circumstances.

As I understand it, when the manufacturers sell CAT Scan and MRI equipment to hospitals, they often send along counseling and literature on how to limit the use of this equipment to keep the charges high. If that did not happen, hospitals and others would probably run this equipment 24/7 charging you a fraction of the price at 4 in the morning on Sunday as compared to what they would at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. After all, this is what reasonable business people in other industries would do.

Of course, the equipment manufacturers have a vested interest in this, for if they can keep the charges high, their selling price stays high. But don’t think for a minute if their price was pushed down by competition, they would not be pushing hard on their second- and third-tier suppliers to cut costs, too. It would ripple through the system. The actions today, as I understand them, are essentially price-fixing in any other venue.

Same thing for everything else in the medical industry. It is one big scam designed to suck as much out of the U.S. GDP as possible. It will stop only when the buyers, that is the government and we as individuals, refuse to go along with their game.

The government has succeeded in the past in breaking up these cozy relationships in other industries. The poster child is the airline industry, which was deregulated by President Carter. Airline tickets today, in constant dollars are a tiny fraction of the price in 1976, and the service is multi-fold better. Same thing happened when the courts broke up Ma Bell.

President Trump, you are supposed to be a great negotiator. This is your chance. Negotiate. You are holding all the cards because you represent over 300 million buyers.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.