Shop around for health care, really?

So our health insurance’s high deductibles are supposed to make us more conscious of pricing and have us shop around for the best prices… Bulls@#!!

You’ll be given the example of how an x-ray costs 75 bucks at one provider and $350 at the next. CT scans at $2,000 at one provider and $500 at the next. When do you need an x-ray? That’s right, in most cases when you are in really urgent need of one. Your heart stopped beating so let’s do some price comparisons.

Yes, there is a wide variety of pricing from one healthcare provider to the next but if one charges $2,000 for a CT-scan while the other charges $500 it shouldn’t be up to the consumer to find the competition, clearly one provider is milking the system for what it’s worth.

As much as I would like to shop around for best pricing, it tends to be the case that the most expensive treatments are associated with urgent care. We the consumers do not have the luxury to shop around when care is urgent.

Case in point, this weekend my son fell on the playground from a gyro toy like the one shown here.Photo Source We found something that felt like a battery under his skin on his upper arm. Clearly something was very wrong. We didn’t shop around for the cheapest; we went to the closest children’s hospital emergency room and took it from there.

Two X-rays and one hour later it was determined his bone (with tendon) had broken away from his elbow and surgery was required. It might be a plate, it might be wires (as if we know what would be best, I certainly did not ask for prices). As a consumer are we then supposed to go: “wait, how much is that? Let me check first if we can get it cheaper at hospital across town”. No it isn’t and we didn’t. We needed to get our son’s arm fixed ASAP and that’s what we did. All we could do was trust the doctors and pray nothing bad would happen during surgery. Pricing is not on your mind when these things play out.

To be honest I haven’t seen any bills yet, but I’m pretty sure reconstructive surgery of the elbow will exceed our $6,700 deductible (no matter where we got it). So is it our fault, we blew our entire deduction because we didn’t shop around? No it is not and I’m sure it isn’t for most of us in need of urgent care.

Yes there are those that put an out of proportion burden on the system, yes when it comes to elective surgery go shop around, chances are insurance won’t cover it anyways but when it comes to many of us, we tend to only incur large medical expenses when we’re in urgent need. For those that require continued/recurring care, shopping around will probably mean running out of deductible in 6 months instead of 3. As consumers we’re with our backs against the wall and with those “incentivizing” large deductibles we’re screwed.

Since the government is now paying for practically all of our healthcare anyways (not making judgement on whether that is right or wrong), next time one provider chooses to charge 5 times what the other charges, it is the government that needs to pull that provider back in line. Free market is great but we should all be aware that we’re no longer talking free market when it comes to healthcare.

Alright, I’m done venting, I will now go back to feeling sorry for our kid who is having a really hard time getting used to that wickedly heavy cast on his arm. Poor kid.

Love to hear your thoughts on this

Photo Source playground


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About Maarten van Lier

Maarten came to this country with a suitcase and a diploma. He created a financial plan and goal to become a millionaire in 10 years. He successfully turned his financial goals into reality, wrote a book about it and now blogs actively in hope of inspiring other to do the same.