It Pays To Be A Doctor

My son and I parked our car outside the doctor’s office bright and early this morning.  We walked into the waiting room at 6:58am to hand in our paperwork and made it back to the exam room 10 minutes later.  3 minutes with the nurse, about 7 with the doctor, then 5 more with our nurse and we were done.  The rest of the time was spent with me trying to keep my son entertained while waiting for the next person to pop into the room and trying to stop his tears after the nurse gave him a shot in each leg.  After almost ten minutes of waiting at the patient check-out window I was presented with my bill.  $481.00.

My first thought was WTF!!!?!?!??! which I politely expressed by saying “wow” to the nurse processing my bill.  Four hundred and eighty one dollars for what?  My personal annual exam plus all lab work runs me $310 and that visit is one that’s actually spent with the doctor for a significant amount of time, usually about 20 minutes after about 15 with various nurses.  Those twenty minutes with the doctor cost $150, while my son’s 7 minutes ran me $140.  Both of these doc’s bill the ICD-9 code for the extended visit, which is fine for my personal visit but I fail to see how 7 minutes the doctor had with my son qualifies as extended, or the 15 minutes total we were with medical staff.

The remainder of the $481 for his visit went towards three vaccinations.  The same ones the health department gives out for free.  If you’re wondering why I didn’t take him to the health department to begin with, it’s because they were booked AND because through experience I’ve learned that kids are treated nicer in an actual doctor’s office rather than a clinic with cranky nurses who stick kids with needles every 15 minutes, all day long.  I assume the health department receives state funding which allows the vaccines to be free of charge, but I also don’t believe they cost $341 as I was charged.  A medical practice is a business like any other and I get that they need to make money, but the amount they marked up these shots is insane.  The actual cost for his DTaP shot is $24.40 on the high end of the spectrum; my cost is $107.  His MMR shot’s cost them $50.16; my cost is $142.  IPV costs them $25.43; my cost is $91.  Again, those costs to them are the high end of the spectrum; depending on how their practice is classified, they could be paying less than half that per dose.

I had to request the cash patient pricing before they took a little over $200 off of my bill, still leaving it at a price I thought was too high and concerning me that those who don’t ask are charged the higher pricing for their services.  Things like this make me totally disgusted with our healthcare system.  I worked in a doctor’s office prior to the job I hold now and once a year, we would go through the system and jack up the prices that we charged to insurance companies.  Durable medical equipment that cost us slightly over a hundred dollars would be billed to Anthem or Cigna at $1400, plus a $60 cost going towards a staff member explaining how to use it.  Doctors screw the insurance companies by overcharging and the insurance companies compensate by screwing US, the patient, by raising prices and refusing services.

If you’re a doctor that performs an unnecessary service such as breast augmentation or liposuction, anything that wouldn’t be deemed medically necessary, then by all means jack your prices as much as you wish.  Insurance isn’t paying it unless it actually IS medically necessary (and usually isn’t) and a boob job isn’t a requirement to start school so the general public doesn’t need to worry about it.  As far as everything else, there needs to be some structure and some accountability.  The main reason I don’t have health insurance is that my husband, son and I rarely ever need to go to the doctor and it doesn’t make financial sense to have it.  No insurance company is going to refund me if I overpay, but you better damn well believe they’ll raise my rates if they feel I’ve gone over what they consider to be reasonable costs.

I’m short one molar because my former insurance company refused to pay for a medically necessary implant and now my teeth have shifted to improper positions.  Their reason for refusal was because I had exhausted my benefits with the surgery to remove the “baby” tooth that had been impacted in that spot.  The money that went to this insurance company was more than I ever used for all my visits total ANYWHERE, but still they refused to pay and kept my money, resulting in me having 1 missing tooth (which thankfully is too far back to be noticed) and a useless screw in my jaw from when the oral surgeon had to stop the implant process due to refusal of payment.  Someone please explain to me how this makes any sense whatsoever.  Health insurance, which is there to help, routinely denies coverage and payment for no other reason than they don’t feel like giving YOUR money to the physician who needs it.

Medical procedures and testing, shots and equipment, all of it should have a set cost.  Stop treating it special and treat it like most other goods/services out there.  It’s nonsense for a gas station to charge $20 a gallon to business travelers paying with corporate cards while charging the self paying credit card using customer $6 and cash customers $3 a gallon.  If any station pulled that garbage, it would start a riot.  Yet no one seems to give enough of a damn about the state of health care and the way doctors charge patients, at least not enough to change anything.  Once my son is 7, I can go to Walgreens and get the same exam he received today for only $35.  If they can do it for $35, why can’t everyone?  The office I used to work for charged $79 for DOT physicals and $29 for the school physical my son received today, and yes it was performed by a medical doctor, not a nurse or physician’s assistant.  Why the price variation?  Why should I have to shop around to find MEDICAL CARE FOR MY CHILD??!?  Something so important and so necessary should be equal across the board with pricing that is appropriate to what is received.

When I was younger, I used to hear kids say they wanted to be a doctor so they could help people.  I wonder when that turned into wanting to be a doctor so they could buy a Mercedes…..


About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on August 17, 2011, in Kids, Money and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. That picture looks like Zak Baggins

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