First, my apologies to used car salesmen.  I put the above in quotes intentionally to make it clear I have no problem with those selling used cars.  I reject any charge that I am comparing the ethics of those running the big hospitals with those who sell cars, new or used.  I have the utmost respect for those involved in the car business.  Ok.  Let’s get underway.

Sometimes the big hospitals just can’t help themselves.   In an effort to advertise and reach out to the public they show more cards than they mean to.  An article in our local paper touting the benefits of robotic gallbladder surgery (although in the body of the article, that such “benefits” are unknown and unclear is reluctantly admitted), very clearly brandishes a smoking gun.  “Hospital representatives say having the robot-assisted surgery doesn’t cost the patient more.  It is about $5000 more for the hospital, but the hospital writes that off as an additional cost for using the robot.  The machine at O.U. Medical Center Edmond cost (sic) about $1.8 million.”

See it?  Here’s a clue.  O.U. Medical Center Edmond isn’t in the business of doing robotic gallbladder surgeries to lose money.  See it now? They are flushing $5000 down the toilet and still making money.  Ouch.  That’s kind of embarrassing isn’t it?  Especially when you look at this.  Keep in mind that our price includes everything:  surgeon, anesthesia and facility fees.   Think about how angry you would be to think you had bought an automobile, only to find out later that the “discount” you were given to make it such a good deal was a sufficient amount to completely pay for the vehicle at another dealer. 

Keep this in mind when you hear folks talk about the “greedy doctors” and the high price of health care.  How is it that the Surgery Center of Oklahoma can be owned by a bunch of “greedy doctors” and charge so much less for surgical care? 

One more thing.  If you’ve kept up with this blog and are familiar with the uncompensated care scam you also realize that in all likelihood the hospital, rather than “writing off” the $5000, is receiving a portion of this “write off” as a rebate from the taxpayers later.  They are telling us in the article they don’t need the $5000 to maintain their profitability on this case.  They aren’t telling us that they are getting part of it later, anyway, from folks who didn’t have their gallbladders removed at all.  Seems like that’s the story that ought to be in the newspaper.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.