If you’ve recently had a minor injury or ailment, that could be the beginning of your problems. I recently ended up paying nearly $600 for 10 minutes of a doctor’s time and two hearing tests. The problem? An ear infection. That’s pretty costly, but fear of serious hearing loss motivated me to bite the bullet and do it. Even worse than the costs, if I ever apply for another health insurance plan, I’ll need to add this doctor to the list. That probably means that I’ll have a waiver on anything even remotely related to this problem for the rest of my life (yes, I’m self-insured). All of this, by the way, was due to a cold I was having. Earlier, I had gone to a clinic, and the cost was reasonable – well under $100.
In an article on Yahoo! Finance entitled Clinical Approach, the author provides a similar story:
The emergency room admitted him and naturally, without talking price, put eight stitches in his chin and fed him a late dinner.
The bills started coming shortly. First, $273 for the stitches from the attending physician. Then, $85 from the primary care physician for removing the stitches. And then, the heartbreaker — $848 from the hospital for the emergency room visit. If you’re keeping score, that’s a total of $1,206.
Shortly afterward the family checked out the local urgent-care clinic, open until 8 p.m. on weekdays, which would have worked fine. Cost: $222 — including the follow-up visit to remove the stitches.
So what’s the solution? There really isn’t a good one in the U.S. (and fixing our system seems quite hopeless in an era of unbridled profiteering). Clinics can be a good choice in most cases. I have also found that you can call a doctor’s office and talk to a nurse for advice. And, doing research on the web can sometimes be helpful (though it’s often difficult to find reliable, unbiased information).
Of course, it’s getting to the point where it might be cheaper to avoid the “middle-man” and just get a medical degree yourself. I’m willing to bet that that approach will be quicker, cheaper, and less painful than dealing with our healthcare system directly.