Normally I only do one blog post per day, but last night another item caught my eye after I’d already written and scheduled today’s earlier post (“Insured patients can save money by pretending to be uninsured”). Actually, “caught my eye” isn’t the right term. A more accurate term might be “totally incensed me.” Even more accurate terms aren’t suitable for print.
Anyway, what I read motivated me to do an extra post today.
Yesterday the Daily Mail, a British newspaper (publishing here through their online outlet MailOnline), put out a story regarding many people’s confusion over whether they actually have health insurance under Obamacare. As you may have heard, there’s been a few glitches here and there with the law’s rollout.
That’s not what caught my attention however. It was the story of one of the people who was apparently caught up in this confusion.
‘They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!’ a coughing Maria Galvez told MailOnline outside the Inova Healthplex facility in the town of Springfield.
She was leaving the building without getting a needed chest x-ray.
‘The people in there told me that since I didn’t have an insurance card, I would be billed for the whole cost of the x-ray,’ Galvez said, her young daughter in tow. ‘It’s not fair – you know, I signed up last week like I was supposed to.’
The x-ray’s cost, she was told, would likely be more than $500.
Of course this story is mainly about the bungled rollout of Obamacare and what it’s done to this woman and countless others, but there are plenty of people commenting on that, and I’ll leave that to them. My focus here is on the $500 price for a simple chest x-ray.
It wasn’t just the fact that she was given a wildly inflated price that drew my attention. It’s that this is for me a very local story – the Inova Healthplex facility cited in the article is literally just up the street from me, and is in fact where I had my own surgery in August. This lady is a part of my community, and she was treated very, very badly by my local hospital.
There is simply no justifiable reason for Ms. Galvez to be given a price of $500 for a simple chest x-ray. According to Healthcare Blue Book, in my zip code an insurer will typically pay $68 for this imaging service.
SaveOnMedical.com, a source for self-pay prices for imaging services, doesn’t have any cash prices for providers in my area. But plugging in zip codes on their site for several other areas around the country revealed cash prices for chest x-rays ranging from $50 (New York) to $90 (Chicago). I also placed a few calls to imaging centers in my area, and was told by one facility about 8 miles south of here that it would be between $72 and $87 for a chest ray depending on type (apparently there are 2 different types) if the patient paid cash at the time of service.
I’m certain that the price Ms. Galvez was quoted is the ‘chargemaster’ rate, which is the entirely fictitious set of ‘list prices’ maintained by most hospitals that aren’t paid by anyone except unwary uninsured or out-of-network patients.
Hopefully someone who’s familiar with the options and alternatives that self-pay patients have knows Ms. Galvez and can point her towards a location where she can get a fair and reasonable price for an imaging test she needs.
And I hope someone at my local Inova Healthplex sees this, and feels very, very bad about what they did to Ms. Galvez.