HUSTLIN’ HEALTHCARE is a fun new boardgame that brings the thrill of being a large insurance company into your home! Deny claims, jack up your premiums, and undercut the competition. But be careful, if too many of your patients die, then you can’t collect their payments and you’ll go out of business. The game is a thesis project by Clay Ewing. It uses real Medicare claims data to form the prices.
I asked Clay why he started this project.
He says, “My impetus stems from people around my age (I’m 29) not knowing much about the system in general.
Before attending Parsons, I worked for a corporate law firm and I was told I had really good health benefits. I never really used them. I went to the doctor for checkups now and then because I felt like I needed to. I still had to pay a bit of money for the visit which I thought was weird. I don’t mind paying a doctor for their services. In fact, I think they should make more money. However, I was paying a lot in insurance premiums and I began questioning the value. I know that you can’t run an insurance company with only sick people, you’d go bankrupt. If you want healthy people to support the system, it needs to be a good deal. I was really curious at this point, “if I had this particular ailment, what would it cost me?” If I knew all of those particular prices and I knew what the usual ailments were, would I be more inclined to buy insurance? Or less so? Would I comparison shop if I could?
There was a lot of debate over “the system” and now we have legislation to reform it. I’m still skeptical though because as much as we’ve forced people into buying insurance, the issue of the cost keeps being ignored. The cost is already crazy and it’s inflating fast. When I started to uncover prices, I noticed a huge disparity between hospitals in the same area. Talking to people in the industry though, it could mean a lot of things. Cost shifting, different techniques, different approaches, etc. There’s such a lack of transparency that it’s impossible for a free market to exist. This is not a capitalist v. socialist thing, merely an observation. If a system is privatized, it needs active and engaged consumers. Our current system is supposed to be, so I think we need to create informed consumers if we want to start fixing the problems.
The game is a method to bring the issue to light. I want the players to shift their focus to the business side of health care, grounded in real world data and then have a conversation. I think that if more people looked at the issue from multiple angles, we might come up with some great ideas.”