The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today from Dr. Eric Michael David who writes a first-hand account about his young son’s emergency room visit that turned out to be nothing more serious than a bruise on his head, and his shock at receiving a $20,000 charge. Because he is a doctor (and a lawyer), he was able to navigate the medical system to negotiate the bill but his experience is a lesson to us all.
Dr. David wrote (see Health care and the $20,000 bruise):
As a doctor and a lawyer, I like to think I’m pretty good at navigating the health-care system. So when my wife and I found a large swollen bruise on our 3-year-old son’s head more than a week after he had fallen off his scooter, I was confident we could get him a CT scan at a reasonable cost.
We live near one of the top pediatric emergency rooms in the country. The care was spectacular. My son was diagnosed with a small, 11-day-old bleed inside his head, which was healing, and insignificant.
I was proud to see the health-care system working, to see academic medicine working, and most of all to see my son run as fast as he could out of the ER two hours later.
Then the bill arrived, and you know where this is going: $20,000. Our insurance had already paid $17,000, and we owed $3,000 out-of-pocket. What for? Among the items listed on the printout was a $10,000 charge for a “trauma team activation.” This made me want to give consumers some very simple tips on how to fight their health-care bills, so here goes.
Following were listed ten helpful — and sometimes humorous — steps he followed to reduce the bill. Sadly, not everyone will have the knowledge, tenacity, or time to chase down charges that may be out of line.
It’s typical of what some have dealt with in health care throughout the years. I still remember my mother almost pulling her hair out dealing with insurance companies after my father’s death from cancer. Perhaps most irritating of all was when she was told to resubmit copies of information she had already sent, making it necessary for her to retrace her steps and inconvenience others to satisfy the insurance company. For a grieving widow, it added insult to injury.
Will it be any better under Obamacare? Dr. David concluded:
The new Affordable Care Act is just “a complex and somewhat ugly patch on a complex and somewhat ugly system,” as Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt put it. Nothing will change until we shift incentives away from overuse and upcoding, but both Democrats and Republicans have spent more of their time attempting to scare their constituencies than they have deeply examining incentives and proposing any solutions—free market or otherwise.