John Stossel: 'My hospital's customer service stinks'

Sharing his diagnosis of lung cancer, consumer news reporter and TV personality John Stossel had another piece of news out of a major academic medical center: "I have to say, the hospital's customer service stinks."

Physicians keep him waiting and won't give out their email. He has had tests upon tests performed on him following his lung cancer diagnosis, but no staff member discusses the costs with him or explains why the tests are needed. He fills medical history forms by hand over and over again, and machines beep into the wee hours of the night, he wrote for Fox News.

Yet, Mr. Stossel is not surprised by this because he says hospitals are like "socialist bureaucracies." They are paid by the government and large insurance companies, meaning they don't have to answer to the patient, according to Mr. Stossel.

"Some of my nurses were great — concerned about my comfort and stress — but other hospital workers were indifferent. When the customer doesn't pay, customer service rarely matters," Mr. Stossel wrote. "I'm as happy as the next guy to have government or my insurance company pay, but the result is that there's practically no free market."

This doesn't happen in some areas of medicine, like plastic or Lasik surgery, because the physicians compete to please patients, he wrote. The reason they do it, however, is because the patient pays the bill.

So what is the solution? Mr. Stossel belives more of us should spend our own money on care. "That's what makes markets work," he wrote.

Mr. Stossel wrote his column from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.


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