I can't think of too many services or products that a person would purchase without knowing how much it would cost. It is amazing that no-one knows the cost of their own health care services in advance...and furthermore, even we doctors have little clue about the charges and payments that our patients pay.
This odd phenomena is largely due to the fact that 3rd parties (insurance, government) pay the bill (or a fraction of the bill) so patients don't need to know. In fact, when I tell patients that it would be a waste of money to do a certain test...often the reply is "Oh do it anyway, my insurance will cover it."
Now that patients are paying more and more of the health care cost through high deductibles or Medical Savings Accounts, there will be more interest in what is billed.
I had a patient who came to me with unusually heavy menstrual periods. The diagnostic work-up and treatment led to an out patient surgery for a fibroid removal and D&C. The operation took place in October but she is now getting bill after bill and is spending a lot of time trying to figure out what is charged and what her share of the payment is. Here is her latest accounting:
Dr. Brayer Initial Appointment/ $115/ $74
Ultrasound / $1,226 / $101
Radiologist / $281 / $0
Ultrasound / $1,022 / $335
Radiologist / $281 / $1
Ibuprofen for Surgery / $32 / $32
Darvocet for Surgery / $13 / $13
GYN Consultation / $336 / ?
Operating Room / $17,991 / $1,367
Anesthesia / $810 / $100
GYN (something else) / $15 / $3
TOTAL so far
Billed- $24,022 / Patient paid- $2,218
Although the accounting is a hassle, my patient is happy to have only paid about 10% of the charges. I think 24K for out patient surgery is pretty pricey. For someone without insurance it would be unaffordable. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to know ahead what it would cost?