A physician with a high deductible health care plan recently tried to obtain a price for his son’s upcoming surgery (an outpatient procedure).  Read his blog about it here.  The local hospital quoted him $37,000.  A local ambulatory surgery center later quoted him $1500…and you thought I might be exaggerating the price differences out there!  It seems that the hospital needs a whole lot more money to not make a profit.  Anyway, the author of the blog asks the right question:  why didn’t his surgeon tell him about this $1500 alternative?  Could it be that the surgeon is a hospital employee?  Could it be that this hospital-employed surgeon has his marching orders and has been told to patronize his employer’s establishment, regardless?

I think this is a great example  of the breakdown of the doctor patient relationship caused by the hospital employing a surgeon.  ”Whose bread I eat, his song I must sing.”  People often times talk about the conflict of interest present if a physician owns a hospital or surgery center.  Once again, why is it that it is ok for hospitals to own doctors and not for doctors to own hospitals?  I think that this is a clear example of the obvious conflict created by hospitals employing physicians.  This creates the “cartelization” of the health care marketplace that distorts competition in a way that is hard to combat.

If he is not a hospital employee then I guarantee you he is not an owner in an outpatient surgery center, for if he had been, he would have picked up the phone and asked and promptly found out what the cost of this procedure would be.

The really bad news for the hospital that tried to rob this guy?  He is the CEO of Healthcare Blue Book, a pricing guide for those looking for a guide to what medical procedures ought to cost. He is a physician and also has a law degree.  Wrong guy to mess with maybe?

G. Keith Smith, M.D.