Hospital CEO Looks to Congress to Cut Health Care Costs

May 1, 2013

St. John's Medical Center CEO Lou Hochheiser is presenting a series of public forums to help Teton County residents understand health care reform.

Credit St. John's Medical Center

Treating prostate cancer can cost anywhere from $40,000 up to $200,000. But Hochheiser says the outcomes are the same.

So why pay four times as much? Hochheiser says consumers don't have good tools for comparing the cost effectiveness of medical treatments. And there's another factor.

"If you build something that costs you millions of dollars to build, you're going to want to use it," Hochheiser said. "So you advertise, 'I've got this great new technology.'"

Deluged by marketing, consumers are dazzled by new technology. And they don't have good tools for comparing costs. So it's tough for consumers. He adds that seniors have a different challenge. Medicare, the government-run insurance program for seniors has made decisions that will impact consumers.

"Medicare has not decided to bite the bullet to say if something is as good as something else, and one of them is cheaper, you have to use the cheaper one," he said. "We don't deny much in this country whether it's drugs or technology."

But ultimately, Hochheiser says the buck doesn't stop with Medicare. "It's really Congress that has to get on board, not Medicare. There's a lot of things Medicare, the people of Medicare would like to do but the Congressional rules don't let them do that."
Hochheiser will explain the economics of health care reform in more detail during public forum May 29 at the Teton County Library.