Cancer treatment can easily be one of the most expensive medical bills that anyone will ever be hit with. And unfortunately, while there are numerous options for self-pay patients seeking primary care, when it comes to cancer treatment the options can be tougher to find. For the uninsured, getting hit with a hospital’s inflated ‘chargemaster’ rate for cancer treatment can be financially devastating, even if you have a critical illness policy that provides cash that can be used to pay for treatment.
That’s why I was pleased to find a recent presentation by Dr. R. Anders Rosendahl of Texas, who runs the Thyroid Surgery Center of Texas, and who has opted out of the insurance system (although his office manager will help patients to submit claims to their insurance company so they can be reimbursed for allowable out-of-network costs if the patient does have insurance). He only performs thyroid surgery, which is generally the main treatment for thyroid cancer.
Dr. Rosendahl gave this presentation a few weeks ago at a meeting of the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, a medical association of doctors that generally prefers to avoid insurance company and government involvement in their medical practices, and are often quite friendly to self-pay patients.
One of the things that jumped out at me that self-pay patients who are uninsured and not wealthy should take note of was about seven and a half minutes in (the video is a little bit more than 14 minutes long), where Dr. Rosendahl explains that he generally charges poor patients much less than he charges others (he also admits to charging the wealthy a little more than average – this actually used to be quite common before insurance, when doctors charged patients based on a sliding scale according to what they could afford).
Unlike many practices that cater to self-pay patients, it doesn’t appear that Dr. Rosendahl lists his prices, although his web site does say that the surgeon’s fee typically ranges from about $2,800 to $4,200, and the price is apparently agreed to before the surgery is performed, so there aren’t any nasty surprises for patients after the operation. In the presentation, he tells the story of one patient whom he only charged $100 for thyroid surgery, which should give some indication of the sort of price flexibility he’s able to offer poorer self-pay patients.
Getting a cancer diagnosis is, I would assume (blessedly I’ve not had the experience myself), a hugely stressful and traumatic event. There’s no need to add to that stress and trauma by trying to deal with doctors and hospitals that simply aren’t capable of fairly working with self-pay patients and giving them a straightforward price. For the self-pay patient with a thyroid cancer diagnosis, Dr. Rosendahl or any other doctor who has left the insurance system provides a welcome option.