Readers react to price shopping for health care

Columnist Beth Kassab finds that un-posted health care costs vary greatly.

You know there's a problem with the health-care industry when people complain more about how hard it is to price a colonoscopy than they complain about undergoing the actual procedure.

Your response to columns about comparison shopping for health care confirmed as much.

Dear Beth, I recently tried the same request for the same procedure with the same results. Health care will never stop being the financial cancer of this country until the recipients get a handle on it and become responsible for the cost. And we won't be able to get there until regulations require fee disclosure. People making loads of money do not want you to know the price until the service is finished. — Jim

Right on, Jim.

Dear Beth, It's the dirty little secret (maybe now, thanks to people like you, not so secret) in the health-care industry. Providers need to provide more transparency, but we as consumers need to demand it. Thanks again for starting this conversation. — Dale

Thanks, Dale, but people like you need to put pressure on lawmakers to change the system.

Dear Beth, You stated, "That's why it would be helpful for health providers to publish real prices on their websites." I totally agree. In fact, it is essential that they do so in order for consumers to make an intelligent decision as to where to have expensive procedures performed. But it is to their [providers] benefit not to do this. This eliminates any ability of consumers to price shop and it effectively eliminates the benefits of competition. — Jack

You nailed it. No price competition keeps prices high for everybody.

Dear Beth, Our health care has become a joke. Please continue to pursue these issues. I hope one of our hospital CEOs has the same courage as the CEO of Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami. — Judy

So do I, Judy. But so far from local hospital CEOs ... crickets.

Dear Beth, Thank you so much for your article. It was right on to our situation with our uninsured daughter ... bottom line, even if you get an estimate [for a procedure], the bill could be through the roof more than you were quoted ... So what do we do? We put it on a credit card. — Doug

And there's the problem, Doug. People shouldn't have to become buried in debt because of illness.

Dear Beth, This is one of those topics that really bothers me because sometimes I have felt at a loss when it comes to health-care costs and the way doctors, hospitals and insurance companies decide how much to charge. Even to an educated person like myself with a master's degree, this feels like learning a third language. — Laura

Hospital bills printed in Klingon would make as much sense.

Dear Beth, By nature, I do shop around for everything ... I decided to call about my colonoscopy and endoscopy. Nothing. Zip. Nada. I called the hospital, three surgical centers and the insurance company two or three times. I got so frustrated I was almost in tears. — M.

If it's any consolation, M, 007 couldn't unravel this mystery.

Dear Beth, Your column really hit home with me. A few years ago I wanted to go out of network for my son's knee surgery. I called my insurance company. I wanted to know how much to expect to pay out of pocket. I was told that was impossible to tell because there may be complications, etc. I said, "You don't have a fee schedule for basic procedures assuming there are no complications?" I was told "no." — Vickie

Let's stop the madness. Some states, such as New Hampshire, have state-run databases that help patients comparison shop. Go to MyFloridaHouse.com and FlSenate.gov and tell legislators to lift the veil on health-care prices.

bkassab@tribune.com or 407-420-5448

CHICAGO

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