I was interviewed recently by USA Today reporter Laura Ungar of the Louisville Courier-Journal. The story ran Monday 9/14 in that paper and will be in the national USA Today soon. (I expected it on Tuesday 9/15 but it’s not there.)
The subject is summed up perfectly by the headline: Wildly varied health costs a national mystery.
Regular readers of this blog are familiar with my years-long series of posts Let Patients Help: Cost-Cutting Edition, especially my efforts to shop responsibly to get a skin cancer treated. If you’re not familiar with it, and you have the stomach for it, sit back with a cup of your favorite beverage and start digging. (For a shorter version, read the final post, which is pretty unsettling.)
Why do I ask you to read it? Because I believe this is important to the future of health(care) in America. We must put an end to this crap. Providers, give us the facts! Tell us what things will cost, so we can decide what’s important to us!
Good providers who are trying to do a good job at a good price simply cannot win our business in an environment that, 9 years after the original article in Health Affairs, is still best described as that article’s title did: “Chaos behind a veil of secrecy.”
Can you believe that this situation is tolerated and nobody is getting busted? As I told Laura in the interview:
There can be no explanation other than some secret malarkey going on. …
I feel disempowered and disrespected, because aside from the incredible cost crunch we’re all experiencing, it’s a downright sin that my family can’t readily find out what the options are and what the costs are.
The article cites several places where you and I can start to break through the chaotic BS. My favorite is Clear Health Costs, founded by my pal Jeanne Pinder. They do the hard work of digging up what people actually paid especially when no insurance company was involved – direct pay, so all the secret agreements and fishy pricing are removed from the picture, and you can see what things are actually worth when there’s no “veil of secrecy.”
CHC is only available in some cities, because of the hard work involved, but they’re doing a great job of spotlighting the malarkey, and I’d love to see them everywhere. That will come with more exposure on various public radio stations and other outlets.
Stop the secret malarkey. Speak up and insist on common sense answers.
Don’t ever fall for the too-common response that many health worker have been taught to say: “Don’t worry, insurance will pay for it.” That is exactly how costs have gotten so high – and it does, absolutely, come back to bite you; it’s why premiums keep rising, even when people make it sound like it won’t affect you.
Well, it does. Just look ’em in the eye and say, “Well, I do want to know how much this will cost – even if I’m not directly paying it. Costs are important and I want to help. Are there any other options? How much do those cost?”
As I blogged about in my skin cancer case, what looked like it would be $5000-$7000 of cost ultimately turned out to be less than $700. The same isn’t always true, but if I hadn’t asked, it would never have come to light. Go thou and do likewise.