Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Don’t Get Sick

If you do, be sure to shop around. Not being on a corporate subsidized health plan for seven years we insure ourselves through a plan designed for the self-employed. My recent bout with a health issue opened my eyes in a lot of ways. It all began a few months ago when I would occasionally feel nauseated to the point where I did not want to eat at all. It came and went about one day per week. Two weeks ago to the day this condition became a daily occurrence, enough for me to return form a southern Illinois turkey hunting trip four days early. What really got my attention was an experience with the dreaded black stool.
Black stool means internal bleeding in the upper GI area. After the initial doctor visit he ordered some x-rays and blood tests. The nurse in my doctor’s office informed me that blood tests can be done not only at hospitals but at private independent labs as well for much less cost. So I made three calls. The local hospital wanted $980 for blood tests. One lab wanted $350 for the same tests. The other lab wanted $145 for exactly the same thing. Guess where I went. My copay for the barium x-rays was $850, which is 30% of the actual cost. The nurse later told me that I could have shopped around for x-rays as well and probably would have paid less than 1/3 of that. If you are frugal as I am and bother to find the best prices on food, goods or other services then why not shop medical treatment? I didn’t know. Now I know.


Mark said...

It's such a racket and insurance used to make it impossible to shop around. Now I'm on an HSA and our company provides an advocate who will do some price shopping for you since we are mostly paying out-of-pocket.

Last time we had a baby we tried to get the hospital to break down the charges for an uncomplicated delivery, but they wouldn't/couldn't and told us it was a package deal for about 12K (now it's 15K). We have been there/done that, and were in and out with no meds in about a day.

This time we are going with a midwife for about 3K, even though it is out-of-network and we have to pay out-of-pocket. HSA deductible is 2.5K EACH for Mom and Baby, so screw the hospital.

Sadly my wife likes to say to the kids: "Sorry, but Mommy is a nurse, so we only go to the doctor when we're dying".

Dan from Madison said...

Mark - it sounds good, but a question for you. With our first kid, my wife had no real issues. With the second one, she had a pretty bad perineal tear. It was so bad that they had a blood transfusion at the ready in case they couldn't get it taken care of. Lots of stitches. Fortunately we didn't need the transfusion. My question is how prepared is the midwife for situations such as this?

Carl from Chicago said...

Gerry, glad to see that your biggest health problem now is negotiating for a better price on services :)

Mark said...

Dan, those types of unknowns and risks are a very significant concern. Our midwife has almost 30 years of experience, so we balance that with the risk of bringing a healthy mom/baby to a location where there is a lot of sickness. It's a tough, personal decision.

Also, what a great picture for the story - I was very confused for a bit!

Jonathan said...

I hope you get your health issue taken care of. I had some tests a while ago that would have cost me $1500 if I had done everything through my insurance company and let them bill me. Instead I offered cash and the provider quoted $1200, which I accepted. Then the insurance company refused to apply all of the $1200 to my deductable, because I hadn't gone through them, and I had to waste time fighting them over it. Crazy system. Of course under Obama everything will now be free, so why worry.