Last week I went to my doctor for a check-up and took my family out to dinner. My experience as a consumer was very different between the two. The restaurant had total transparency. The menu not only had the prices of the items but pictures of most of them. We knew exactly what we were getting and how much it would all cost. I even mentally calculated the tip before I received the bill.
At the doctor’s office, I had no idea what my procedures would cost. Even as the doctor was going over the tests they would run on my blood work, there was no mention of cost. I didn’t know what I would have to pay until I went to the receptionist’s desk and received the verdict. Fortunately for me, there was no “sticker shock.”
The Trump administration wants to change some of this. At the moment, administrators are considering a rule that would require doctors and hospitals to disclose rates they negotiate with insurance companies. This would be a small step in the direction of health care transparency.
Another problem with our health care system is the fact that someone else is paying for your medical procedures. If you go back to our family dinner, you can see the issue. If someone let us borrow their credit card and told us to have a nice dinner, we would probably spend most of our time looking at the left side of the menu. But when we pay for it, we also pay attention to the right side of the menu that has the cost.
Two years ago, I wrote about the major difference in cost for heart bypass in the county in which I live. At the time, the average cost for all of the hospitals in Collin County was $164,757. But one medical center in the area was charging nearly $80,000 more for the same procedure.
Getting some transparency is an important first step, especially since more and more of us are paying for health care procedures because of high deductibles. We expect to see prices on a restaurant menu. I think we should be able to see prices at a doctor’s office and the hospital.