"Prices are almost always inflated before being routinely discounted. Amid such financial flimflammery, it's virtually impossible for a patient to be a well-informed consumer of healthcare."
That was the subtitle of an article in the Los Angeles Times recently. The gist of the article is that medical bills, especially hospital bills, are almost impossible for patients to decipher because there are so many different prices for the same services, depending on the insurance status of the patient. Please click the link to read the full article — it's an eye-opener. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Susan Kovinsky underwent outpatient surgery recently at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The procedure, a hysterectomy, began at 10:40 a.m. By 3 p.m., she was on her way home.
The hospital bill: $65,514.97.
"When I saw that number, I was sure it couldn't be right," Kovinsky, 44, of North Hollywood told me. "How could just a few hours in the hospital cost that much?"
Yet this is a story of the healthcare system working as it's intended to. Cedars-Sinai did its job. Kovinsky's insurer, Blue Shield of California, did its job. Kovinsky has no complaints about either.
But if we ever intend to get our healthcare spending under control, clearly there's much to be done to reform a system in which a relatively common procedure and less than a day in the hospital costs more than a fully loaded 535i BMW sedan.
Kovinsky's case is illustrative of the problem. Medical bills are almost always inflated before being routinely discounted. This is done by hospitals and doctors to boost their reimbursement from insurers.
The upshot, though, is that amid such financial flimflammery, it's virtually impossible for a patient to be a well-informed consumer of healthcare.