Billing Code Shortage Hinders Coronavirus Response

One of the strengths of capitalist medicine lies in the robust nature of its billing system. Whereas socialist medical practitioners too often take their eyes off of the financial ball, capitalists have put forth a range of innovations, such as sterile credit card machines, which can be used in operating theaters, to ensure that medical practitioners don’t do so much as watch a newborn mother hold her baby without charging.

In normal times this rich and varied approach to billing is a boon to the bottom line. Indeed for most of the past decade private hospitals have seen the largest growth in profits of any industry, edging out traditional capitalist bulwarks like energy and private prisons. Unfortunately, the current pandemic has caught private equity flat-footed. “We’re seeing hospitals billing an entire 2 week stay in ICU as little more than “corona virus”.

The problem is not enough billing codes. How did this happen?

Some suggest using Newspeak to define new codes. Others,while supportive of this opportunity to increase profits, caution against moving too hastily, “There’s a school of thought in medical billing – and I’m not saying its right – which arguea that billing codes should be on some level related to actual medical practices. The diagnostic code “F9836 – Physical double plus good” may be useful in their ability to describe both success as failure simultaneously, but in a medical context can leave some ambiguity about basic facts, like whether or not the patient is even alive.

But surely capitalism, which its renowned ability to flexibly respond to any business opportunity is on the case. And indeed it is. Notes one industry analyst, “Private equity has stepped up to the plate, vigorously cutting the salaries of medical personnel, and redefining trash bags as PPE. But has it been enough. I don’t think so. We should have one or two thousand new billing codes defined for this crisis, and I’ve only seen a fraction of that number.”

Some industry analysts don’t think so.