With so much news about health care swirling around this weekend, now seemed to be a good time to reflect on this rhetorical question: Why do patients without insurance pay more than patients with insurance? You would think “cash is king”—that someone paying for their own treatment should be the ones getting a break. But our system works in an opposite way. One needs only to look as far as their last insurance statement. My new carrier is Cigna—My wife Pattie’s employer mandated company. The cost of my initial consultation with my myeloma specialist/oncologist, Dr. Melissa Alsina, was $438. Now I don’t know if that is a fair price, or charge, for that service or not. I did meet with several different medical professionals during my visit, including Dr. Alsina’s medical fellow/assistant and her oncology nurse. Dr. Alsina is a well known multiple myeloma expert—which is one of the reasons I chose Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for my medical care. Cigna only allows, and is only paying $157.95. The balance is written off. That’s a 63% discount. Similarly, Pattie also recently visited Moffitt. The insurance “discount” on her labs went as high a 85%. One fee, a $231 “facility charge,” was disallowed altogether.
I have no problem with any of this. If Cigna can negotiate health care costs down on our behalf—great! But what if I didn’t have any health insurance? What if I was expected to pay that bill? Would I receive similar discounts? NO! That’s fair? This is so counter-intuitive to me.
Watching CNN last week, a financial health care advisor recommended negotiating your bill down if you are paying yourself—saving you up to 30%. What? 30% is far less than the Cigna billed discounts. Worse yet, why should you or I need to negotiate a medical bill. That is one of the reasons I hate buying a car. The negotiation. What ever happened to bottom line, fair pricing—for autos or health care?
Feel good, keep smiling and hold on to your wallets! Pat