So a couple of months ago I saw my doctor about this chronic pain in my lower right abdomen. I’d had it for about a year, sometimes barely noticeable, sometimes more noticeable, and, being a medical writer, I was certain it was ovarian cancer (don’t ask my why, but I’m convinced that this is the cancer lying in wait for me, even though I have no risk factors. Medical writers are only second to med students in terms of hypochondria).
Anyway, my doctor thought it was probably gynecologic and told me to see my gyn. But he also suggested a CT scan to rule out a kidney infection or stone. Sure, I said, and off I went to radiology.
Long story short, we still don’t know why I have this sometimes pain, but it’s not that bad and I’ll just live with it (until it turns out to be something serious and it kills me [see, I told you medical writers were hypochondriacs]).
But the pain got much worse last week when I received a bill from the radiology center for $778.62. Turns out that’s what I owe after my insurance company paid it’s part of the charge. Here’s how it broke down:
Charge from radiology center for CT scan = $4,098
Contracted price with insurance company = $3,893.10
Insurance company payment = $3,319.38
20% payment I owe = $778.62
Here’s where I screwed up: I did exactly what I advise everyone else not to do: I didn’t ask how much the scan would cost and I didn’t know my health insurance benefits well enough to know that I now owe a 20 percent copayment for services like CT scans.
I would never buy a car this way. Or a TV. Or a bottle of wine (and, as many of you know, I buy a lot of wine!)So why oh why did I buy something so expensive with absolutely no idea of what it was going to cost me?
Because I was stupid. Because we are trained not to ask what things cost when it comes to health care. Because we are used to our insurance companies picking up most if not all of the cost.
The times they are a changin’ people. Our out-of-pocket costs for health care–even if we have good insurance, which I do–have skyrocketed (and no, it’s not because of the Affordable Care Act, but because of things like $4,000 CT scans). We have got to become better healthcare consumers and demand to know up front what something costs. It’s called transparency, and until we, as consumers, demand it, healthcare providers aren’t going to provide it (although some insurance companies are).
I can tell you that had I known what the CT scan cost, I would not have had it. I would have waited until after I saw my gyn and to see if my symptoms got worse.
So now I’m nearly $800 poorer. That would have bought a LOT of wine.
The only good thing about this episode is that I learned a valuable lesson. (And I got a blog out of it!)
Want to know more about transparency? Great blog here from the Washington Post.