A Bit Confused and Still Missin’ the Hippies

OKLAHOMA CITY — I am increasingly amazed that some of the most anti-private property minded people in this country are such supporters of the obscene profit taking of the giant corporate hospitals. The evidence that the giant hospitals are raking in unfathomable profits is all around us with building projects, ad campaigns, purchases of competing hospitals systems, hostile takeovers of physician practices, sponsorships of sports franchises… I have written this all before, I could go on. 

How is it that collectivists/socialists find this rapacious profiteering excusable yet spew bile about the fact that our facility (Surgery Center of Oklahoma) doesn’t accept Medicare or Medicaid funds? Is it OK to fleece and bankrupt the sick as long as you give lip service to caring for the indigent? And how do you define indigent? If the hospital is paid an end-of-the-year rebate from Uncle Sam for caring for those who don’t pay them, can these folks still be considered indigent? And can the hospital claim they gave them free care when they were paid after all was said and done? This is, after all, the uncompensated care scam in a nutshell.

Perhaps these same collectivists consider people “covered” by Medicare and Medicaid indigent. But according to staffers in Washington with whom I have visited, Medicare pays the hospitals more than twice the prices listed on our website. Jim Epstein of Reason Magazine discovered during his research on his documentary about our facility that the hospitals are actually paid more by Medicaid than many of the prices on our website. 

The truth is that the hospitals have lobbied long and hard for the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements they receive, their protests about these payments notwithstanding. They have also lobbied long and hard to make sure that non-hospital facilities like mine are paid a fraction (usually below our costs) of what they receive by these same entitlement programs.

To say that the hospital lobby doesn’t hesitate to enlist the legislator to protect them from competitors, indeed to hamstring their competitors, would be an understatement. Ever heard of “certificate of need?” (“Certificates of need” don’t apply to the hospitals apparently as two of the 11 operational proton therapy machines in the U.S. are here in Oklahoma City.)

These are the same types of vicious crony activities that the socialist supporters of hospitals deride while gleefully wishing for the quick death of free enterprise and capitalism. The very essence of the pursuit of self-interest at the expense of others (which many socialists mistake for the ethic of capitalism and free enterprise) is epitomized by these same hospitals whose pockets these same socialists want to line with more Medicaid money. 

I don’t get it. I am confused. At the Surgery Center of Oklahoma we are cheaper. We believe we provide care as good or better than anyone in the country. Our prices are sparing many people from bankruptcy. The price war we have started will likely bring surgical health care within the price range of many who cannot afford it now. I would think those who champion themselves the protectors of the poor would welcome these developments.

Perhaps they are brainwashed a bit with the hospital “take care of the indigent” propaganda. Perhaps they are confused by the “not for profit” designation, which just means they don’t pay tax. Why aren’t these hospitals seen as greedy tax-dodgers?

Where are the hippies, the folks who peacefully resisted the lies and the jerks in the “establishment?” As I have written before, I miss them.

Note: Dr. Smith is the co-founder and managing partner of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma.