We don’t know about you, but whenever we’ve had to go to the hospital for anything, whatever we’ve had to pay for it has basically been a crapshoot. No matter how much research we’ve put into it, it’s always hard getting an estimate from the doctor and hospital, and then that estimate still doesn’t include a black hole of possible stuff: other doctors, test, prescription drugs, etc. It would drive a person insane, but that would be a whole other hospital visit!
Well, if you’ve ever wondered if it’s just you, it turns out The Los Angeles Times couldn’t do any better when it tried to get estimates on a routine surgery:
To see what consumers were up against, The Times contacted 10 California hospitals and asked for the cost of a routine gallbladder surgery for someone with a high-deductible insurance policy.
Seven of the hospitals offered at least partial estimates, but the quoted prices ranged widely — from $1,200 an hour for the operating room to a $8,687 facility fee. None included the cost of the doctors, although California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco did say that the total cost for hospital services, including a room, drugs and other supplies, could be $37,217.
One hospital, Desert Regional Medical Center, didn’t return calls. Contacted later, spokesman Richard Ramhoff apologized and said Desert Regional “strives to make sure everyone with a question about rates gets an answer.” Another hospital said it would take 10 business days to get an estimate, and another required detailed insurance information before discussing prices.
“This really highlights how impossible it is for consumers right now with high-deductible plans to effectively shop for care,” said Ateev Mehrotra, a policy analyst for Santa Monica-based Rand Corp. and an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
If you’ve been trying to price our your medical care, don’t forget resources like the California Healthcare Atlas and Healthcare Blue Book. They’re certainly not perfect, but they can at least give you an idea of what your procedures may cost so you don’t have to be blindsided by a gigantic medical bill afterwards.
Have you been able to price our your medical care? Tell us about it in our discussion forum!
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