Healthcare is expensive, and the costs are something Americans are increasingly exposed to.
In particular, high-deductible health plans are on the rise. According to a September survey, the percentage of workers with an insurance plan that requires them to pay up to $US1,000 out of pocket passed the 50% mark for the first time. That means consumers have a clearer picture of how much healthcare costs them, and that unexpectedly high costs are hitting more people.
There’s been a fair amount of coverage about what insurers, drug companies and middlemen in the healthcare industry are doing. But what can doctors do to counter the rising medical costs patients are facing?
Elisabeth Rosenthal, journalist and author of “An American Sickness,” which details how the American healthcare system got so expensive and dysfunctional, told Business Insider there’s one big thing doctors can do to lower the cost of medicine.
“It’s to bring up the cost issue,” she said. “Because it’s kind of like the scary Voldemort in the doctor’s office.” That is, the topic is as taboo as He Who Must Not Be Named.
To that end, here’s how Rosenthal’s seen doctors try to keep costs down:
- By referring patients to one imaging facility over another, based on which location has the best deal. “It takes a little extra work,” she said. “Physicians will tell me they will call those facilities and no one will tell them what’s charged.” But if they hear that one of their patients was overcharged, they have the power to not send them to that center any more.
- Patients can play a role in this too. Rosenthal recommended having doctors look at her network list, pick out which ones they would recommend based on that group.
- The next step would be if centres started providing up-front prices. A movement of specialists are already starting to do that by not taking insurance, instead offering cash prices for surgeries or set prices for visits. “That’s a pretty helpful thing because it’s concrete. I think what patients are most scared of — I mean yes ,the price is a big problem — but even harder to deal with is the uncertainty of the price,” she said.
Ultimately, physicians have one priorty: making sure you feel well, and costs shouldn’t get in the way of that. But having these conversations about cost is a relatively new phenomenon.
“I think doctor’s are on your side and they’re trying to innovate, but it’s new for them too, this world of prices and costs,” she said. “It’s just because insurers have mostly in the past just paid, we’ve all been kind of blind to this, and now patients are waking up.”
Here’s more from Business Insider’s conversation with Rosenthal.
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