Wednesday, February 22, 2006

WSJ.com - How the Amish Drive Down Medical Costs

I don't normally go near the Wall Street Journal, but they do have some free articles and here is an excerpt from one--dealing with how the Anabaptists (Amish, Mennonites) deal with modern medicine.
How the Amish Drive Down Medical Costs:
"Heart of Lancaster is a small hospital, and its case load is fairly conventional. But the Anabaptists weren't looking for anything exotic. They wanted discounts on services such as orthopedic surgery, biopsies and childbirth. The hospital agreed to discounts of up to 40% off its top rates, resulting in prices that would still be slightly higher than Medicare reimbursements, the level most hospitals consider a minimum. Not satisfied, the Anabaptists pushed the executives to go lower. But the hospital said if it dropped prices to levels below Medicare reimbursements, it could be charged for fraud for charging Medicare patients more."
The Amish, and the other Anabaptists, fascinate me. They form a test case for many theories. Are they really American? How should one deal with other cultures (like those who discourage higher education)? etc. etc. In this connection, I strongly recommend the book "The Riddle of Amish Culture"by Donald Kraybill.

1 comment:

Tim Abbott said...

Bill, I quite agree that the Amish are fascinating and that The Riddle of Amish Culture by Donald Kraybill is a must read.

Another way the Amish drive down medical costs is through opting out of social security and instead creating a strong network of mutual aid to defray hospital costs when a member of the community faces serious health risks. Certain procedures have less priority in such a system - orthodontics may be less important than detecting cancer - but the community is strengthened and more self-reliant by this system.

The key message from Kraybill's book is that the Amish negotiate with modernity. On some bedrock values like their children's education, they have been willing to go to jail for their beliefs. On others, they have adopted compromises that maintain their community but allow them to farm and work within and not completely removed from the modern market.