I’ve written about and mentioned on several occasions two surgical facilities that offer cash prices for self-pay patients, the Surgery Center of Oklahoma and Regency Healthcare in New York City. These are places that offer up-front, all-inclusive prices for routine surgical procedures including hernia repair, rotator cuff repair, carpal tunnel release, pacemaker placement, hysterectomy, and knee replacement.
Because most hospitals use ‘chargemaster’ prices for self-pay patients, which are typically three to five times more than what insurers pay for the same treatment, going to a facility like Surgery Center of Oklahoma or Regency Healthcare is probably the easiest way to save money on hospital or surgical treatment without leaving the country.
One problem of course is that there aren’t a lot of places like Surgery Center of Oklahoma and Regency Healthcare, and until a few days ago I didn’t know of any on the West Coast. Fortunately I recently received an e-mail letting me know about Ocean Surgery Center, located in Torrance, California, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Like Surgery Center of Oklahoma and Regency Healthcare, Ocean Surgery Center offers cash prices for dozens of common procedures. Looking at the prices offered, they seem fairly comparable to a little bit higher than those charged by Surgery Center of Oklahoma. For example, hernia repairs at Surgery Center of Oklahoma range from $3,060 to $4,500 depending on the type, patients at Regency Healthcare would pay between $4,800 and $6,200, and at Ocean Surgery Center hernia repairs range from $3,840 to $6,950.
While self-pay patients can (and should!) compare prices between these and similar facilities, the real savings come from not having to pay ‘chargemaster’ rates. I recently had an exchange on Facebook with a friend-of-a-friend, who informed me that her friend, who had been uninsured had paid (or at least been charged) $30,000 for gall bladder removal. The point of her telling me this, in her mind at least, was to support her contention that even relatively modest (i.e. not cancer, stroke, heart attack, etc.) medical treatments can easily leave someone with a $100,000 medical debt.
As I explained, that was almost certainly the ‘chargemaster’ price for the gall bladder removal, and her friend probably could have found a much better deal. According to Healthcare Blue Book, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) in the Los Angeles area would generally run around $6,000 if paid for by an insurer. And at Ocean Surgery Center, the cash price is given as $7,300, a bit of premium over what insurers pay but far, far less than what a hospital using ‘chargemaster’ rates would typically charge.
Ocean Surgery Center explains why they chose the cash-friendly model (it’s not clear if they’re cash-only or also accept insurance). For regular readers of this blog, most of this will sound very familiar:
The critical flaw in our for-profit healthcare system is the absence of price transparency. This flaw has allowed for price distortions to go unchecked, leading to inflated and often excessive medical bills…
At Ocean Surgery Center on the other hand, we have chosen transparency. And in charting our own course, we—along with a handful of other specialty surgical practices—intend to pave a path for the industry to follow. We believe, and we do so unwaveringly, that transparency will:
empower patients, which is crucial if Americans are to regain control of their healthcare decisions.
preserve the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship that is being steadily weakened by third parties.
realign healthcare prices with the fundamentals of healthcare economics.
And so, Ocean Surgery Center makes public the prices for all surgical procedures its physicians perform—rightfully giving the patient the power to choose and the ability to plan…
This idea is not new. All cosmetic surgery services are transparently provided for potential patients before services are rendered. However, in today’s healthcare, insurance companies, hospitals and managed care organizations all interfere with patient choices… Very few surgical facilities provide transparent prices, and those who do, provide them mostly for selective specialties or unique procedures.
Dr. Khattab, Medical Director of Ocean Surgery Center, was inspired by Dr. Keith Smith and his principles of free market to empower patients. Dr. Smith, with the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, has accomplished the extremely difficult task of re-centering value around the patient. They have provided transparent prices for many specialty surgeries on their website and have assisted many patients through this process called “transparent pricing”.
… In most communities, if patients ask, they will be able to find a physician who provides services for a reasonable cost outside a health plan or insurance-paid services. In Southern California, with the help of highly-qualified specialty surgeons, such transparent prices will be available to patients. They can browse the website, investigate the surgery center and contact us by phone or email to discuss their needs. The published prices are not teasers or introductions to bait and switch.
Ocean Surgery Center, located in Torrance, California, is a state-of-the-art multispecialty center, credentialed by AAAASF since 2006. The facility provides high quality care for hundreds of patients every year and will provide the same quality services for you and your family with these transparent prices.
Medical tourism to foreign countries to have your surgery done has been available for a number of years, but reviewing our global prices, you may have second thoughts about traveling overseas to find affordable and high quality care.
Only with transparent pricing will patients know the true cost of their procedures and this will empower them to choose for themselves and their loved ones.
I’m obviously happy to see another cash-friendly surgical facility in the U.S., this one more accessible for people who live on the West Coast compared to traveling halfway or all the way across the country. A growing number of doctors, facilities, and other companies and organizations are now catering to self-pay patients, and we should look forward to more in the coming years.