We’re spending a lot of time talking about the cost of healthcare these days, so I was a bit shocked yesterday when I received a bill for my wife’s emergency room treatment at St. Luke’s Hospital in Meridian back in November of 2016.
This is where much of our problem lies—in the transparency of costs. St. Luke’s price for services totaled $3,449, the cost my insurance approved was $555. My insurance paid $480 and my share was $75. The bill was from 11/29/16, my wife passed away 12/8/16, and it took 7 months to get a bill out to me. Why?
David Pate, the head of St. Luke’s Hospital, wrote an opinion article in the Statesman on Transparency on July 7th. He states he is in favor of more transparency in the healthcare debate, yet if you try to get a price for a particular procedure offered by St Luke’s, it is just about impossible to find any transparency at all. He questions “is there anyone in the country who isn’t in favor of making Healthcare more affordable?”; yet his organization doesn’t appear to want patients to know what it will cost to fix a problem in the facility he runs. He says it would be refreshing if someone told the truth about healthcare costs. Well, how about starting with Mr. Pate and the cost of services at St. Luke’s. He needs to stop being such a hypocrite because as the saying goes, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Mr. Pate needs to clean up his own backyard before pontificating about someone else’s. I challenge anyone to try to get a handle on what a particular procedure will cost at his facility and come away with a real price. This is where the transparency starts, but evidently not for him or the organization he runs because St. Luke’s is about as transparent as a black hole. At least St Al’s posts a huge list of the costs of various procedures on their website. So David, if you happen to read this, you need to take your own advice and give the people of Idaho a list of the costs for procedures that is fully transparent in your facility, instead of letting them be surprised 3 to 6 months later when they get the bill.
If the prices for procedures were actually listed and people had to pay out of their own pockets, no one would ever go to the hospital if they could possibly avoid it. The problem lies in the fact that there is no transparency and—because most of the time someone else is picking up the bill—many people neither know nor care about the actual prices of the services they receive. It’s time we required hospitals and doctors to post a list of the costs for services to give patients a proper perspective of how much they would have to pay if they had to open their own wallets.
When it comes right down to it, if we don’t demand this cost transparency, we deserve to pay higher prices for our healthcare. It’s time to fix this problem but we need to get to the root cause and not just fix the symptoms. In 2014, Mr. Pate’s compensation totaled over $1 million, and we are reasonably sure that since then his salary has not decreased substantially and in fact has probably risen. St. Luke’s Hospital is a non-profit organization, so I ask you, where does the real problem begin in the cost of health care? Does it lie in the legislative process or at the inception of medical costs with the facilitator or physician? I submit that both are equally responsible for the escalation of prices for healthcare because the person receiving the care never knows what the actual cost is for services they are provided. Next time you have to visit the doctor or hospital, before anything else, ask them where the price list is for the services they will render to patients.
“We Get the Healthcare We Deserve”