If you don’t know the cost, can you buy intelligently?

Medicine costs money, lots of money.  It is eating up the economy in larger and larger bites.  Doctors rarely consider the costs of a test or a treatment and one reason is because they rarely know the costs involved.

From MDWhistleblower: 4-11-2010

…There is no fixed price for a medical item, as we expect when we purchase a gallon of milk at the grocery store. For example, when I spend a morning performing half a dozen colonoscopies on 6 lucky individuals, the reimbursement for each procedure may be different. While I am not an economist, this seems rather odd. If 6 patrons order the same entrée at the same restaurant, their bills will be identical. Not so, in the medical world, which has a cost system so abstruse that we need CIA codebreakers and cryptographers to decipher it. As an aside, when I receive my own medical bills, I need an insurance company Rosetta Stone to decode them; and I am in the medical business. Unraveling these insurance company documents tests the wits of our most seasoned patients who must be steeled for hours of dogged inquiry to capture a windfall refund of $4.86. However, recovering even a trivial sum is a sweet victory.

A few years ago, in my own community hospital, we were provided with a running total of medical charges accrued for each patient. The financial charges were stratospheric, for even brief hospital stays. I was surprised that the administration shared this data with us, and I wondered if the disclosure was inadvertent. This speculation was supported when the data disappeared from our computer screens without warning, and has never reappeared. We lost a tool that could have helped us to practice medicine more judiciously. If we were reminded of the cost of a CAT scan, at the moment when we casually ordered it, perhaps, we would pause and consider relying on the scan from 2 months ago, which was performed for the same reason.

more via MD Whistleblower: Cost-Effective Medicine: Cracking the Code.

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