Saturday, February 12, 2011

Health Care Costs Too Much

Almost every day I hear a story about health care that makes me cringe. (I also hear good stories about health care, but that is another post)  Today while buying a pair of shoes, the sales clerk told me how upset she was that a chest X-ray cost her $350.00.  That amount is her portion...she has insurance and the full charge was over $800.  She wishes she would have known the cost and said,  "I would have thought twice about getting it.  I had a cold that lasted several weeks and the doctor just wanted to make sure it wasn't pneumonia."

(Try as I do not to 2nd guess my physician colleagues, I do have to wonder if a chest X-ray is indicated in a healthy young non-smoker who is not sick and just has a lingering cold)

This woman went on to say, "I can't believe it.  I pay $380 a month for health insurance just for myself and I only get a pap smear once a year.  And I still got stuck for $350.00 for the chest X-ray.  My employer pays even more for my insurance so the insurance company gets about $1000 a month for me. It will take me 3 days of working on Saturday just to pay for that X-ray that I probably didn't need."

Had she asked her doctor what the chest X-ray would cost, I doubt the doctor would have known. Had she called the hospital and asked what it would cost, I doubt they would have been able to tell her.  Had she been able to read her insurance coverage handbook, I doubt she would have found that the X-ray would cost her $350.00 out of pocket.

It is hard to be an informed and savey consumer of health care when you cannot find out the price of a service.  The prices are so variable between one hospital and the next one down the street and the imaging center on the next block,  that a person could spend a day price shopping and comparing and still not make the best choice.  The range for a simple chest X-ray can be between $80 and (gulp) $850 as this one cost.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that she will probably get a 2nd bill from the radiologist who interpreted the study. 

This is a very broken system that isn't working for the average working woman.

28 comments:

Kathleen MD said...

We all know it's broken, the question is, "How do we fix it?"

When I went to the ER in Israel, I found a sign near the reception listing prices for all tests such as Xrays, EKGs and labs as well as the price for a workup by a physician. Clear and transparent - great for all tourists or anyone outside of their health care system.

In Israel the government is involved only in that they collect a fee from every single citizen. The fee goes into an insurance pool. They then distribute that money among private insurers who must provide a panel of basic services for that price. The free market works as patients choose their insurer based on several factors including the ability to purchase more comprehensive services.

It works. Everyone I've talked to is happy - both docs and patients. And EVERYONE is covered. The free market is in play with full glory capitalism but yet the government guarantees coverage for all.

Dog beds said...

The free market works as patients choose their insurer based on several factors including the ability to purchase more comprehensive services.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Sure, medical care costs too much. More important, I think,is that we do too much.

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Michael Kirsch, MD: Yes that is so true. It is a hard thing to explain to a patient, however. When it comes to their own health they believe more is better. "If a test has a remote chance of finding something...why not do it?" We have educated people to believe more is better...no matter what the cost and risk.

Anonymous said...

WE don't all believe more is better. I'm supposed to do a repeat colonoscopy, an annual mammo, annual GYN check up and still have time and money in my plan to fix my hallux rigidus on my left foot. I frankly don't want to do any of it! How can we wade through what's needed and what isn't, as lay people? Help!

Toni Brayer, MD said...

Anon: If your tests are Screening (ie: no unusual family history or disease or abnormality that you are following)

Colonoscopy: One at age 50 and each 10 years after

Mammo: Optional age 40-50. Every year (or two) from 50-80. Breast cancer risk increases with age.

Pap Smear: Every 3 years if you are monogamous and have had 3 normal pap tests in a row. No pap tests if you have had a hysterectomy.

Chest X ray: Not recommended as screening

EKG: Not recommended as screening

Bone Density: Once at age 65 and
if normal you don't need another one for 10 years.

Carotid Ultrasound or Peripheral Vascular Disease screening: Not recommended

Hope that helps. If the guidelines change, I'll write a blog!

Jacqui MacNeill (Escents Aromatherapy Essential Oils) said...

The cost of health care and/or pharmaceuticals is one of the reasons why I'm a big proponent of preventative measures. Wellness is a lifestyle of eating healthy, being physically active, lowering stress, and avoiding damaging habits. Using natural supplements, both internally and externally, can also play a part in a lifestyle of wellness.

Jonathan said...

Not only does our health care cost too much, but it's not clear that in spending as much as we do, both employers and employees, that we're living longer (or better) lives as a result.

local models said...

Todays health care becomes so costly.Lower class people can not use the new technology of the hospitals it is not affordable by them.You share wonderful article i really appreciate with it.

Canadian Drugs Online said...

The free market works as patients choose their insurer based on several factors including the ability to purchase more comprehensive services.

virility ex said...

The fee goes into an insurance pool. They then distribute that money among private insurers who must provide a panel of basic services for that price.

Obagi said...

My only concern (as many others) is how much money we are spending right now. The deficit is out of control. I think everyone agrees that we need to fix Health Care, but at what cost right now?

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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