Patients tell me they are disgruntled with their health care because they never know what the cost will be. What other business provides services to customers without first disclosing the cost of those services? From auto mechanics to funeral planners, most businesses are expected, even required by law, to provide an estimate of the cost to the consumer. With medical fees so incredibly high, why aren’t doctors and hospitals expected to do the same?
Why, when patients are given consent forms to sign, are they not also given written estimates? Instead, they are asked to sign a financial agreement and promise to pay whatever their insurance will not. They must also sign that they understand that their insurance may not pay for anything at all! Does healthcare get away with this because patients are at their most vulnerable? Will they sign anything just to get the medical care they need?
There is the beginning of a cataclysmic shift in patients’ attitudes regarding the cost of their healthcare services. This can be seen, for example, in the area of elective services, where demand has been lower for the past few years. Also, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, more patients are cost comparing optional benefits as they shop health insurance plans. And patients are starting to ask for prices of tests, procedures, and surgeries prior to consenting to those services. I predict we will see more of this behavior as patients are held to greater accountability for their own health.
Medicare began sending its members patient satisfaction surveys. What if those pesky Baby Boomers are not satisfied with their unexpectedly high medical bills? Is it only a matter of time before Medicare requires that patients receive written estimates before they check into the hospital or clinic? Because I am sometimes the patient, and a pesky Baby Boomer, I would be satisfied with that.