Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gambling on health care

"How much does this CAT scan cost?" I asked the lady with the clipboard.
"I have no idea. Please complete the form on both sides."
"I mean an idea. Ball park. Say if I didn't have insurance."
"Don't forget to sign and date the form. I really don't know."
"How much does this cost?" I asked the lady drawing my blood.
"Depends on what the doctor ordered."
"What did she order?"
"Standard workup."
"How much is the standard work up?"
"Don't know. Ask the lady out front."
That's the lady with the clip board, if she knows costs, she ain't tellin'.
"How much does this cost?" I asked the lady who operates the big machine that's going to take pictures of my belly in little slices.
"The machine?"
"No, this test."
"Didn't you get pre-approval?" She looked stricken.
"I guess so, I filled out the green form. I was just wondering about the cost of the scan.
"Gracious, I have no idea."

Next month my health care switches to a $2500 annual deductible, a new plan designed to lower my monthly premiums, gambling I won't encounter any health issues that require a knife, a drug or a bandaid. I'm sure the women today were honest when they said they didn't know the costs. I'm sure the costs change depending who is paying the bill. Kind of like when you go to a foreign country and they have one menu for tourists and one for locals, health care providers get a better price. In the land of diagnostics, I'm about to become a tourist fumbling with funny money and unable to read the menu. Even if I knew the language, I couldn't read the menu because it is all in the waiter's head and the prices change depending on who's paying the bill.

Michael and I got cheated at a restaurant in Almaty this way. I know this game and I don't like it.

The CAT scan was clear, the pain in my side was probably caused by tearing a muscle lifting weights (or books, or suitcases or my toothbrush, who knows about these things). It nags. But what nags me more tonight is wondering what the diagnosis cost. For real. And what I would have been charged next month. Would I have even gone for the test if no one could have told me in advance how much the bill would be? Or would I have just thrown the dice. Who wants to play those types of odds?


Unknown said...

Either way, I'm glad you got the test and I'm SO glad that everything is okay. Love you Mom.

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