How much does this cost?
“Why, you’re the first person that’s ever asked us that.”
You’re joking. When I went in for phlebotomy #2, I figured that I might be in this for the long haul. Every week, driving to the city, paying to park, writing out a $25 co-pay check, and then dealing with the rest of the bill. My health insurance is pretty good, but really, I have no idea what it costs, and what I’m responsible for. So I thought I’d ask. I asked at the front desk. “Oh, you’ll have to talk to Stephanie about that, she’s the financial person.” She hands me her card. So after the phlebotomy, I go across the hall. Mind you, this is a large hematology and oncology practice in a major city. Adjacent to a large hospital, their offices take up half a floor in the medical building. I find Stephanie, and she seems a little taken aback that she’s actually staring a patient in the face. She’s nice enough, leads me back to her paper-cluttered office and I ask her the question: “How much does this cost?” Crickets.
She starts to babble numbers will scribbling numbers on a post-it note. Then she mumbles about insurance, co-pays, etc. I stop and explain to her that I know how insurance works, and how it’s billed. All I really want to know is the going rate for a therapeutic phlebotomy. A hundred dollars, a thousand? Ten thousand for all I know – after an $828 bill for an office visit where the hematologist was an hour late and couldn’t pronounce hemochromatosis, I figure that I better start being a pro-active consumer. She finally figures out that it costs $250 in medical dollars. That’s what I call the “I wish” amount. What the insurance company has contracted with them for remains to be seen. But even with a 20% co-insurance, that’s $50. Doable in my book.
But really? I’m the FIRST person to ever question what the charge is going to be? No wonder our health care system is such a mess.