Insurance carriers are like car salesmen

February 8, 2019

Dear Editor,

A few weeks ago I saw a news story on the high cost of medical care, and how it is for patients to find out what a procedure or examination will actually cost them before they have it done.

For their example they used a private hospital in San Francisco that charged $24,000 to set a broken arm, even though insurance would only pay $4,000, leaving the patients responsibility at $20,000.

They mentioned that this kind of gouging becomes an issue when someone is brought in by ambulance from an accident, and the patient is in no shape to understand where they are.

The newscaster also mentioned (and this is what struck me as odd) that we expect to negotiate on the price of a car so why not health care?
Our media sees health care as comparable to buying a car?

If the analogy held, we wouldn’t negotiate the price of a car by 10-20%: we would expect the sticker price on a $20,000 car to be $120,000 and we would by it not knowing how much we were actually signing up to pay!

This is how health care providers want us to see them? In the same category as car salesmen?

Judging that they charge, on average, 6 times what they are actually worth they are extremely dishonest car salesmen.

The problem here is, if health care providers are this dishonest in who and what they charge; you have to wonder how dishonest they are in everything else.

This could explain why some parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Would you entrust your 2-year olds immune system to the care of someone who is less honest than a car salesman?

Or take routine cancer screening. It makes all the sense in the world to participate, unless the screener is dishonest. Would you let someone who is less honest than a care salesman put a camera in your colon?

This is what I want to happen in the matter of health care billing:

Providers must provide an itemized written estimate in ordinary English (not medicalese), of the cost of a procedure or service before the patient is expected to agree to it.

Insurers must provide a written estimate of what and how the medical procedure or service is covered.

For emergency care, a standardization of prices with hospitals that don’t adhere to the standard required to post their price list on their font doors.

These rules don’t actually address the medical communities inflated prices. They just let patients know how much they cost, before they agree.

Lee Thomas

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