Trump’s attempts to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare have dominated US political headlines in recent weeks. While the healthcare system is battled out in the federal government, state legislatures are looking for immediate solutions. Many are turning to medical mediation for answers.
Surprise Medical Bills
The complex insurance-based system in the US creates many problems with which international readers may not be familiar. One example is the issue of ‘surprise’ medical bills, whereby patients receive bills which they reasonably thought were covered by their policies, but in fact were excluded.
Insurance policies are often lengthy, complicated and use inaccessible jargon, and yet patients are expected to know it inside and out. Your doctor may be covered, but what if you need a test? Is the anaesthesiologist covered? When the results are analysed, will the insurance pick up the pathologist bill?
This problem has been recognised by politicians in the US, but the problem persists. In 2015, Texas introduced a mediation scheme for these bills whereby patients with bills exceeding $500 have a right to mediate a claim with their physician and insurance carrier.
In the interest of transparency and fairness, it is thought that mediation will result in the insurers and physicians taking on some of the costs when the policy or information provided to the patient was insufficient. Although the programme seems sensible, there is a wider problem of mediation awareness.
In a report by the Centre for Public Policy Priorities published in February 2017, it was found that since 2015, approximately 250,000 Texans were eligible to have their bills mediated, yet only 4,000 had utilised the programme.
Making an Impact
This story is interesting for two reasons:
1. It shows the many applications of mediation to all types of conflict. Indeed, in the UK, innovative mediation programmes are having a dramatic impact in healthcare, which is often the source of very emotional and difficult disputes.
2. It illustrates the lack of awareness of mediation as an option for resolving conflict. Even though physicians in Texas are required to inform the patients of the right to mediate in clear and plain language, the uptake remains very low. This lack of awareness is a systemic problem which is preventing mediation from making its full potential impact.
Do you think more needs to be done to raise awareness of mediation as an option for resolving conflict?
How should we go about this?
Let us know in the comments below.
If you want to learn more about the issues with public perception of mediation and what can be done to boost awareness, watch this short and insightful video from the Mediator Academy interview with Stephen Anderson, a market leading mediator in the UK: