Sticker Shock

The above is a Graham Watson Photo.
A friend of mine recently suffered the most dreaded of all cycling injuries: the broken collarbone. Everything about this broken bone was ho-hum. It was not a severe fracture and the care to fix the bone was minimal: a sling, rest, some pain meds. However, the entire experience was valuable as a look into costs related to an Emergency Room visit.
As my friend was unlucky enough to not have health insurance, each bill received was painful, and we talked about it openly. For the most part, I can see the services as fair. Here is what was provided and charged for…give or take a few bucks:
1. Emergency Department Bill: $1050
2. Radioloist: $45
3. Follow-up Ortho visit: $125
4. Radiology: $400
5. ER Physician: $500

HOLD ON! Did you see that last charge? Per my friend, the total time spent in the presence of this ER doc was less than 10 minutes. Why so much? The extent of his intervention was to declare this injury non-emergent, refer to another care provider, and order a sling and pain meds. In other words…not much. In another context, why is his bill so much higher than a surgical consult? (Oh by the way, we’re leaving the fact that the ortho tried to talk my friend into an unnecessary procedure.)

For someone who has insurance, this bill would carry less weight. They will be apt to overlook the high cost and just shake their head as the insurance company pays the bill and passes the cost on to small business employers. Which is where this whole story turns ironic. My friend owns his own small business and cannot afford the absurdly high prices. Now, he’s being over-charged for medical care that is the root cause behind why he cannot afford insurance!
Here is another thought: Doing the math concerning his total bill (~$2000) we can easily see that even in light of a significant injury, the total outlay for medical care is still less than if he had paid $400 dollars for health insurance monthly for the past 16 month in which he sought no medical care, and would have still had a $500 deductible for an ER visit (~$6900).

Unsustainable economics for everyone.

Everyone except the insurance company and ER doc!