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Let's Turn Employers and Working Americans Into Savvy Health Care Consumers
Patients are being overcharged, sent to collections and sued for medical debt. Preventing the harm starts with education.
My friend texted me the other day with another doozie of a health care bill.
“Hey you’d be proud,” he wrote. “I decided NOT TO PAY THE FIRST BILL.”
My friend is not your typical health care consumer. He’s a well established practicing physician. But his story shows that even the most educated and savvy patients need to be on guard against unjustified health care prices.
My friend is on a high deductible plan and put $200 down on an MRI, which he received at a surgery center. He got the bill, which you can see below, and his balance came to an additional $981. So that’s a price of $1,181 for the MRI.
He asked for the cash price.
The cash price is $355.
In other words, insured patients were expected to pay more than three times the price of cash paying patients.
That’s ludicrous. Insurance companies claim to use their market power to get us a better deal. But that’s often not happening. A recent Johns Hopkins study found that the cash price at hospitals was lower than or equal to the median insurance company price for the same service in the same facility about half the time.
Before his next MRI my friend should check out Billy, the site that publishes hospital prices across the country.
My friend is now in the process of pushing for a fair price.
“We think, ‘I have good insurance,’ so this must be the best rate we can get,” he told me. “And that’s not true.”
My friend shared the story because he wanted to let people know that unreasonable health care prices are hitting everyone – even doctors – and people need to get educated and engaged.
Hospitals are suing patients
The need for people to get educated and engaged hit home in an even more sobering way this week when a study showed that North Carolina hospitals have sued 7,517 patients for medical debt in a recent five year period. It’s shameful to see hospitals overcharge patients, send them to collections, sue them, garnish their wages and put liens on their homes. It’s predatory!
There are a lot of highlights from the study, which was conducted by the state’s treasurer and researchers at Duke University. See a great report on it by my friend Rose Hoban in North Carolina Health News. (She quotes me if you want to see my thoughts.)
The North Carolina study comes on the heels of groundbreaking work by The Urban Institute, which has found that about 1 in 7 Americans has medical debt in collections, and KFF Health News, which found that about 100 million Americans are burdened by medical debt. It’s an unbelievable and widespread problem. Working Americans are suffering under the burden of unreasonable health care costs.
The real tragedy is that this is preventable. Most people don’t realize it, but we don’t have to be burdened by these unreasonable health care costs.
So what’s the holdup? Why aren’t things changing?
Many employers are satisfied with the status quo
I think Dr. Eric Bricker hit on something important in a recent video that he posted on LinkedIn. Eric asks the question: Why aren’t employer sponsored health plans changing? His answer: it’s because employers are satisfied. He points to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation employee benefits survey, that shows the vast majority of employers are satisfied with the quality of health care and access to healthcare, and 2 out of 3 are satisfied with the cost of health care.
Meanwhile, Americans tell pollsters that the high cost of health care is their number one financial concern.
Folks, we have a disconnect. Employers seem to be generally satisfied with overpriced health benefits. Working Americans, not so much.
Brokers and HR people: Get educated!
The burden of unreasonable health care costs on working Americans should be sounding alarm bells for employers, HR people and benefits brokers/advisors.
We need better education at the employer level. They need to know how they can better protect their employees.
I recently obtained certification from SHRM and NABIP, so HR people and benefits brokers could get continuing education credit for completing my Never Pay Pathway health literacy videos.
Check it out: now you can get continuing education credit while learning how to protect employees from outrageous and unjustified health care costs.
SHRM members can sign up at this link.
NABIP members can sign up at this link.
The videos are also available for individuals at this link.
Are you an employer that wants to educate your employees? I’m here to help. Contact me at email@example.com and let’s partner to help your people.
People need to be protected, and it starts with knowing what to do. The need for education is great - among employers and working Americans. The time is now. Let’s go for it!