“I felt like I was a hostage…I didn’t have any clue how much they were going to bill. I had no idea it would be so much.”
by JONATHAN M. METSCH, DR.P.H., LLC
May 09, 2014 | 431 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We all go to to the doctor, the ER or are admitted to the hospital without asking what it will cost.

A recent New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com started with this vignette:

" Kim Little had not thought much about the tiny white spot on the side of her cheek until a physician’s assistant at her dermatologist’s office warned that it might be cancerous. He took a biopsy, returning 15 minutes later to confirm the diagnosis and schedule her for an outpatient procedure at the Arkansas Skin Cancer Center in Little Rock, 30 miles away.

That was the prelude to a daylong medical odyssey several weeks later, through different private offices on the manicured campus at the Baptist Health Medical Center that involved a dermatologist, an anesthesiologist and an ophthalmologist who practices plastic surgery. It generated bills of more than $25,000.Ms. Little’s seemingly minor medical problem — she had the least dangerous form of skin cancer — racked up big bills because it involved three doctors from specialties that are among the highest compensated in medicine, and it was done on the grounds of a hospital.

Many specialists have become particularly adept at the business of medicine by becoming more entrepreneurial, protecting their turf through aggressive lobbying by their medical societies, and most of all, increasing revenues by offering new procedures — or doing more of lucrative ones."

A fair-skinned redhead who teaches history at the University of Central Arkansas, Ms. Little had gone to a private dermatology practice in Heber Springs, Ark., to check some moles on her arms when the physician’s assistant on duty noticed a whitish bump — like a “tiny fragment of thread” — on her face, she said. Her family practitioner had told her it was just a clogged pore.

A diligent medical consumer, Ms. Little had read up on the Mohs technique (invented by Dr. Frederic Mohs in 1938) before she and her husband arrived for her surgery in November 2012 in a doctors’ office building at Baptist Health Medical Center here. Pressed for time as the end of the semester approached, she asked Dr. Randall Breau, the dermatologist, why the tiny growth needed the specialized surgery, as she had asked the physician’s assistant earlier. They both answered that it was because it was on her eyelid, a delicate area where Mohs surgery is always required; she repeatedly insisted that it was on her cheekbone below her eye.

After the 30-minute removal, the dermatologist told her that she would have to go across the street to the Arkansas Center for Oculoplastic Surgery, another private doctors’ office on the hospital’s campus, to have the wound closed by a plastic surgeon with “a couple of stitches.”

Her bills included $1,833 for the Mohs surgery, $14,407 for the plastic surgeon, $1,000 for the anesthesiologist, and $8,774 for the hospital charges.

And she was outraged as she wrote checks for the nearly $3,000 she owed to the doctors under the terms of her insurance. “It was like, ‘Take out your purse, we’re robbing you,’ ” she said.”

to read the NYTs article “Patients’ Costs Skyrocket; Specialists’ Incomes Soar” by Elisabeth Rosenthal, highlight and click on open hyperlink

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/health/patients-costs-skyrocket-specialists-incomes-soar.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=1

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