It is unethical for hospitals to charge uninsured patients more money than insured patients for similar medical procedures. This is according to medical ethics and professional codes of practise. However in most cases, this is rarely the case given challenges normally arise as a result of resource allocation. This can be best explained by the fact that despite the fact the primary healthcare of health institutions is care provision; these institutions just like any organization need resource allocation for them to be able to fulfil their mandate. As a result, it is common practise for hospitals to ignore principles of distributive justice. This thesis shall therefore explain why it is unethical for hospitals to charge uninsured patients more than they do charge their insured counter parts for similar services.
Distributive Justice: Unethical Practises in the Pricing Policy in Hospitals
It is unethical for hospitals to charge uninsured patients more than they do their insure counterparts for similar medical services rendered for the following reasons. First and foremost, it is unethical for hospitals to pass down the medical costs of insured patients to uninsured ones. Insured patients generally pay less for medical procedures for one simple reason; they do have a negotiating agency in the name of their healthcare cover provider. Healthcare insurance firms normally negotiate for discounted rates and therefore insured patients pay less than uninsured patients for similar services. Based on this premise, it is unethical for hospitals to overcharge uninsured patients because they lack a negotiating party. In addition to this, it is only fair for hospitals to award uninsured patients the same discounts that insured patients are subject as prescribed in the standard care provisions of medical ethics. This therefore implies that it is unethical for hospitals to overcharge uninsured patients to make up for discounts offered to insurance companies.
Secondly, a majority of uninsured patients are without cover for financial reasons therefore it is unethical for hospitals to overcharge them. Hospitals would have you believe that it is an individual choice to have or lack medical cover but empirical data suggests otherwise. According to a national survey conducted in the year 2003 conducted in the United States, 52% of uninsured Americans forego cover for the simple fact that they cannot afford it. In addition to this, a further 11% uninsured Americans have turned medical cover offered by their employers because the monthly premiums were to expensive for their financial ability. Another 11% of the uninsured Americans were found to be uninsured because they did not qualify for the medical cover offered by their employer. Interestingly, only 7% of the uninsured Americans responded that they did not need health cover. Based on this premise, it is unethical for hospitals to overcharge uninsured patients who empirical data has determined that cannot afford to pay insurance companies on a regular basis for services rendered.
Finally, it is unethical for hospital to charge uninsured patients more than they do insured ones because the cost of subsidized healthcare for uninsured patients is met by the federal government. This therefore implies that the hospitals are making obscene amounts of money not only as a result of double charging uninsured patients but also requesting subsidies from the federal government to meet the cost of this category of patients. Empirical evidence has determined that only a third of the hospital revenues are paid for by insured patients. This therefore implies that more than half of the revenues collected by hospitals. The government subsidies medical charges of uninsured patients to the tune of 85%. Based on this arithmetic, uninsured patients should only pay for 15% of the medical costs. However this is not the case because on average uninsured patients pay two and a half times more than their insured counterparts. This is unethical practice given that the primary objective is to provide healthcare and not to make obscene amounts of profits.
It is unethical for hospitals to overcharge uninsured patients for the following reasons. Insured patients enjoy discounts of up to 60%, based on principle of fairness and equality it is only ethical for uninsured patients to enjoy the same privilege. Secondly, a majority of uninsured patients cannot afford to pay for their medical bills therefore it is unethical for hospitals to add to their misery by imposing further financial burden on them. Finally, given that medical costs of the insured patients are subsidized by the federal government, it is unethical for the hospitals to overcharge these patients thereby receiving double payment for the same services.
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