Health Care: The Fatal Flaw is Us
To make a painful story short, I knew I needed an X-ray, but you cannot walk into a lab and request one; you must first pay a doctor for his autograph.
Five minutes of the good Doc's time and a prescription for the lab: $125, negotiated cash price (NCP). (I had insurance, but I also have a $10,000 [sic] deductible, for two people.)
X-rays: $54 NCP
Visit to an orthopedist, 15 minutes: $229.60 NCP
One wrist cast, 5 minutes: $161.60 NCP (A fiberglass elastic taping that I could almost have put on myself.)
[Thanks to wataugaortho.com for the image. This fellow's is blue; mine is green.]
Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if my insurance negotiated price for these treatments would have gotten me a better deal, so I asked them. They refused to answer, giving the excuse that they cannot determine the price before the treatment has been billed and sent in for consideration.
Here's what I wrote back in anger:
"What the heck is the big secret? We both know that those prices have been negotiated. How do you ever expect prices to go down if you won't allow us to shop for the best deal? I hold you, your employer, and the medical providers personally responsible for colluding against your own customers to maintain the outrageous state of medical care pricing in this country."
But of course once the steam had cleared, I realized that I am probably the only insured who has ever asked that question.
The real problem with health care is that we're all sleeping at the wheel. No one cares: Not the patients, not the employers who pay for coverage, and not the insurers who pay the bills -- but mostly we, the patients. The doctors, insurers and employers are all passing the cost through to us, and we stand there to be shorn like the sheep that we are.
It is we who are accepting the reduction in our take-home pay corresponding to the increase in premiums.
I hate us sometimes.