Let me start with facts.
I’m still without insurance as well as unemployed. My daughter went to a doctor who had a concern and told her to take three tests: TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), CBC (Complete Blood Count) differential/platelets, and Base Metabolic Panel.
I knew I’d have to bring cash to pay for these, and decided to also shop around for pricing.
The three tests ran from a cite of $75.50 to $197.87 over three locations. Yeah. Obviously, I took the $75 quotation. (Labcorp: $75.50. Quest Diagnostics: $197.87. AnyLabTestNow: $147.)
So I got to Labcorp and got presented the bill: $94.60. Wait, what happened to $75.50? (Oh, we paid and had the test done because we haven’t any choice. It was still the least price and it needs done before next week’s appointment with the doctor.)
Well, the first thing is that there was an additional charge. See, those are blood tests and there’s a venipuncture fee of $10.
And it turns out that whoever cited the costs used the wrong sheet. More accurately used TWO wrong sheets. First, there’s a different set of prices for different locations. Second, I was self-pay and that’s a different rate than the rate for insurance.
Specific example one: the TSH. I was cited $25. The statement say the rate is $43. Northern Houston self-pay is $43. Northern Houston insurance is $22. $25 is insurance in North Carolina.
Specific example two, to demonstrate there’s no real rhyme or reason: the CBC. I was cited $29.50. I paid $19. The cite and Houston self-pay are obvious. Insurance Houston is $26.80.
Rant time. The argument of the ‘free market medicine’ is that shoppers will check the prices and find the best. I did just this, but:
a) the prices I was cited were wrong;
b) the prices are wildly variant both between places and between methods of paying.
c) unmentioned is that it took me almost an hour to get three cites. That was tracking down the locations, finding the right phone number, and getting to someone who would answer the question.
There’s a tangled mess in the system, and I don’t think letting the companies already involved fix it is the answer.