Just when you think you have the health care business figured out, new reports come out showing even more dark details about how American patients are simply charged massive amounts of money for health care services on a pretty arbitrary basis.
The newest wrinkle in this story actually turns the conventional wisdom about payment for health care on its ear: where many assume that most uninsured patients get the highest bills, new reports are showing that, in many cases, the “cash-up-front” deals given to cash-paying patients may be as little as less than half of a contractually agreed price that the hospital would bill the insurance company.
Why is this a problem? Because it means that many of those who pay high deductibles, premiums and coinsurance on a health plan may still be paying more for each service, visit or procedure than someone who doesn’t have any insurance at all. It also injects a huge monkey wrench into the now established idea that everyone needs health insurance to make health care affordable. On the flip side, if you have a high deductible but choose to self-pay a medical bill, how will you ever meet your deductible? This is particularly troublesome should you have a catastrophic event.
Deep discounts may be good news for some of those who still pay out of pocket for health care because that's their only choice. The key is to negotiate with the provider. Ask about their ‘best deals’ up front, and let providers know what you know: that in a truly bizarre health care market, it’s not unusual for prices to fluctuate 1000% or more on a case by case basis. You wouldn’t step into a hotel at 10pm and expect to get a “best rate” of $10.00 while already booked customers are paying, say, $200.00 for the same room on the same night, but according to the latest from the health care world, this kind of thing happens at hospitals all the time. Getting the best deal means being vigilant about common practices in healthcare pricing for your area and asking questions before the time of service to figure out what price a provider is prepared to offer you.