Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Plan Unfulfilled

Well, things did not go as planned today. The plan was to not eat, but to write and read and be happy. Instead I did not eat, but got hungrier and crankier as spent four hours on the telephone talking to over two dozen different people, waiting on hold, all to find out what the doctor's fees were going to be tomorrow. Admittedly this was a project I should have started earlier, as I have done in the past (and related http://barrington99.blogspot.com/2007/11/why-its-hard-to-trust-anyone-associated.html and here), but it never ceases to amaze me how a no one associated with a business can estimate the cost of its services. Obviously someone bills when it's all over, where is that person?

In my opinion this is a HUGE factor in the problems with our health care system, is that providers are not upfront about their prices--indeed in some cases I don't think they are laying when they say they don't know--and that patients (i.e. customers) let them get away with that. I'm not the only one. Here is a short article that summarizes the problem quite articulately. In the end, I canceled tomorrow's appointment, in part because I was so frustrated, and in part on principle. I'm tired of rewarding people and institutions for doing a bad job--and in doing so, contributing to the failure of the entire systems that they are part of and causing real people real suffering. I left a message with the doctor himself and told him I was sorry we couldn't do business but that I no longer make appointments with health care providers who can't provide at least some basic estimate for common services. And this was a basic service. For a G.I. department not to know the cost of a colonoscopy is like a Jiffy Lube being unable to quote the price for an oil change.

In the end, I got a referral from my sister and called the office of her doctor. The first person who answered the phone was able to quote a ballpark cost for the facility and doctor. (Miraculously, the doctor is also part of my insurance plan.) So the answers are out there. I urge anyone who reads this to please, hold your health care providers accountable. Your awareness will create pressure for open pricing which will result in a more realistic depiction of our country's health care costs. Without this basic information, no health care reforms by any political party can work.

1 comment:

  1. The ER is the worst when it comes to this. When I stepped on that needle, they charged me 1600 dollars! (and this is Tallahassee). All the guy did was numb my foot and take the thing out. I mean, the cost didn't even include the X-ray. I'm glad that my insurance will cover most of it but still---the cost is absurd.