Times are hard. Everyone is cutting back. Well, not everyone. I see government spending money like never before. Police with fancy new race cars, surveillance cameras at every intersection, new or renovated offices for federal employees..you get the idea. The other sector that appears to be thriving is the hospital sector. New hospitals, new rehab units, new facilities and acquisitions show up every time I open the paper. New chic outlying emergency rooms with attached physician offices, breast imaging and MRI units…wow..these guys sure act like they are making a profit! Maybe they have to spend all of this money to make it look like they are not making a profit. Maybe the big hospitals have overdone the cost shifting thing a bit. Maybe.
Our prices for the identical surgical procedure at a big not for profit facility are often times 20% of their charge. Not 20% less….20% of their charge. And our charges include the facility/surgeon/anesthesia charges. Incredible, no? And we are making money! Your insurance company in all likelihood wants you to go to these more expensive facilities and punishes you with out of network penalties if you don’t.
There are many things about health care financing that don’t make sense. We decided to put our prices online in an effort to expose this insanity. Cartels have prevented the market from working. I think the cartels are at the end of their game, though. Self-insured companies are tired of propping up the massive profits of the big hospitals and the insurance companies are having an increasingly difficult time giving this scam the cover it needs. Transparent pricing is an indispensable component of the free market. The days of the old bait and switch of “well..we’ll need to wait until your operation is over to tell you what you owe us” are about at their end. The big hospitals and their cartel buddies have extracted untold wealth from this country and although will probably never be held accountable might very well go the way of the dodo if the market is allowed to work.
G. Keith Smith, M.D.