Would you go in to a car dealership, jewelry store, a realtor's office, a clothing store. . . . or anyplace and say, "Just give me what you think I ought to have. I don't care what it costs."
I wouldn't. But when a physician ordered three MRIs and an EVR it took several phone calls to find out how much they would cost. I guess when it comes to medical tests, hospitals consider that I am one of two kinds of people. I'm either a person with medical coverage - in which case I shouldn't be so gauche as to ask how much something should cost; or I'm a person without insurance in which case. . . well, in which case I wouldn't have gotten as far as to see a physician to have tests scheduled in the first place.
As near as I can tell with the information I was able to rip from the strong, tight jaws of the hospital and my insurance company, my responsibility will be for 20% of the charge plus $75. That means ol' Fay here, would end up spending $2441.60.
That's right, the charge for the three MRIs and some test where I stare into a box with changing lights for a couple of hours - which by the way, sounds to me like something guaranteed to cause a migraine - is $11,833. This does not include the tests on the three quarts of blood they took from my ever-weakening arm.
Well, I ain't doin' it. I've had MRIs before. They showed some spots on my brain. I reckon they'll still be there. But this guy doesn't even want to see my old pictures. Actually, I'm kicking myself for going to this neurologist in the first place. Well, live and learn.
Seriously, what was I thinking? This electrician doesn't care about symptoms. He cares about numbers and locations of spots. He's a spot-treater.
Well I don't care about the spots. I would like to stop running into door jams and having blurry vision. I'd like to stop toppling from personal earthquakes and I'd like my muscles to behave. How will counting spots do that? He can't answer that question.
So I fired him.
But what sort of a system is this where physicians see you for 15 minutes and order $12,000 worth of tests? Where it's so rare to ask for the cost of procedures that the hospital switchboard isn't really even sure how to forward the call? Where physicians don't care about symptoms, which are subjective but only signs that can be measured and calibrated. Do you think this sort of practice has anything to do with why 40% of South Carolinians can't afford health care coverage at all?
I'm very grateful to have "good insurance" and I think it's too precious to use frivolously. Just because my local hospital has an MRI machine and I have insurance isn't a good enough reason for me to have $12,000 worth of pictures.
I want to make sure that the main reason I'm having a test or procedure isn't because I have "good insurance."
I'm the one running the show when it comes to my health care. I hire my physicians and fire them if they don't answer my questions. I pay for my insurance and copay and deductibles and vitamins and medications and I am responsible for deciding what is necessary and helpful and what is just fancy, fluffy, unbelievably expensive procedures.
I don't have to be a physician. If my physician can't or won't explain things in a way I can understand, or if she somehow makes me feel as if I shouldn't be asking, she isn't doing her job. And we all have to be responsible for understanding as well as we can, our health care and be willing to say "Enough is enough, already!"