Health Care

Even Employer-Provided Insurance is Too Expensive for Most to Afford

| by Toni Brayer MD

Almost every day I hear a story about health care that makes me cringe. (I also hear good stories about health care, but that is another post.) Today while buying a pair of shoes, the sales clerk told me how upset she was that a chest X-ray cost her $350.00. 

That amount is her portion...she has insurance and the full charge was over $800. She wishes she would have known the cost and said, "I would have thought twice about getting it. I had a cold that lasted several weeks and the doctor just wanted to make sure it wasn't pneumonia."

(Try as I do not to second guess my physician colleagues, I do have to wonder if a chest X-ray is indicated in a healthy young non-smoker who is not sick and just has a lingering cold.)

This woman went on to say, "I can't believe it. I pay $380 a month for health insurance just for myself and I only get a pap smear once a year. And I still got stuck for $350.00 for the chest X-ray.  My employer pays even more for my insurance so the insurance company gets about $1000 a month for me. It will take me 3 days of working on Saturday just to pay for that X-ray that I probably didn't need."

Had she asked her doctor what the chest X-ray would cost, I doubt the doctor would have known. Had she called the hospital and asked what it would cost, I doubt they would have been able to tell her.  Had she been able to read her insurance coverage handbook, I doubt she would have found that the X-ray would cost her $350.00 out of pocket.

It is hard to be an informed and savvy consumer of health care when you cannot find out the price of a service. The prices are so variable between one hospital and the next one down the street and the imaging center on the next block, that a person could spend a day price shopping and comparing and still not make the best choice. The range for a simple chest X-ray can be between $80 and (gulp) $850 as this one cost.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that she will probably get a 2nd bill from the radiologist who interpreted the study. 

This is a very broken system that isn't working for the average working woman.

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