The True Cost of Healthcare
I have to admit, it took a bit longer than I had expected for people to start noticing the revelations I make in this website. I guess my first real break was when an LA Times reporter, who was himself discovering some of what I am trying to bring to light, stumbled on my website and contacted me for an interview in May, 2012. His story (that includes a link to my site) is Here.
Since then, my website has been linked in a FOX News story, The Huffington Post, The Daily Kos, The Tucson Citizen (twice) as well as other news outlets. I've also been interviewed on talk radio. Needless to say the traffic to my site has skyrocketed with all of this attention. Along with the traffic, I’ve had dozens of recent emails.
I was also quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle
Most of the emails are thanking me for the information I’ve provided but a number of them ask insightful questions for me to answer, share stories of their own (some very tragic) or simply provide information that would be hard for me to get on my own. I’m thankful to everyone who’s taken the time to write me. Your emails help keep me going.
In this section, I’m presenting some of the emails I’ve recently received. It’s only a small sample but it’s enough to convey a sense of what’s really going on out there in this “best health care system in the world”. I try to answer every email I can but, as you can see, some of the answers aren’t easy.
Here are some examples:
-I worked for 20 years as a biller for physicians, hospital based and private practice. I agree with everything you wrote!!! Its maddening and should be stopped. The insurance company controls the world. It drove me so crazy, because I was always trying to help some patient who was desperately trying to understand what was going on. Even though I could make far more money, I quit the healthcare world and now work as an office manager at a retreat camp facility. Love my new career! Still would love to address Congress on this matter, not that any of those \"freeloaders\" would listen. Insurance is paying them as well. I will check back at your site periodically and just let you know \"You are correct, dear sir.\"
-Thank you so much. I am sending your site to everyone I know. I finally understand how my $300,000 hospital bill was able to be resolved with $27,000 from the Insurance Company and $450 from me.
-I am a Stage IIIC breast cancer survivor for 4 years. I am on SS Disability and have to wait 18 months to get onto Medicare. My husband will most likely loose his job and insurance shortly - he is 65 - would it be worth to pay the huge cost of COBRA? Thank you for your opinion.
-My husband is self-employed, I work part time, and we have 3 kids in college. We pay for our own insurance, which besides being very expensive, also has a $2600/yr. deductible, and co-pays for everything. This is very difficult for us. What other options do we have? I have MS and am on expensive drugs, which our insurance won't pay for at all; the drug manufacturer has a program for people without insurance coverage so I pay a 40/mo. copay. The health insurance cost is the main source of stress in our lives. What can we do?
-A fantastic website. It's as if every thought I ever had about the now-evil health insurance empire was answered or clarified by you. Thank you very much.
-You suggest, but do not discuss, the option of simply dropping health insurance. This is an option I regularly consider, but can't quite pull the trigger on it. Still, on the few times I receive health care, I always ask for the no-insurance cash price, and I am most often quoted huge discounts, so it appears to me that many providers are coming around.
Voting with our dollars always seems a smart choice. Do you have further thoughts on simply turning our backs on the insurance companies (and dropping them)? In your opinion, how wealthy would a patient need to be to be reasonably safe in doing this?
For the record, I advised him against dropping all health insurance (though I could certainly understand why someone would want to).
-I just stumbled upon your website (it was linked in an article in the Huffington Post). I applaud the work you are doing to expose this game. I have been struggling for years to explain this type of scheme as a cause for why our medical care in the US is so costly. Please stay on top of this issue.
Oh, on the Summary page, you state \"Most generic prescription medications aren’t 50% or 75% less expensive that their brand named equivalents, they are 100 times cheaper\". Wouldn't that make them free? Is that really true?
Yes it’s true. They’re not free but very inexpensive.
Here’s an email I got from a doctor:
-I'm a neurologist who experienced this first hand when I had a thyroid nodule removed. The hospital billed 50k for the overnight stay, or time, mess and preop. The charges included $100 for a bag of normal saline $500 for a bag of iv keflex .. EKG I could have done myself .. And so forth.
This was separate from the surgeon, anesthesiology and pathologist bills which were actually not that inflated. The insurance co. negotiated a $17000 reduction in the bill without any delay or questioning as far as I can tell.
I was billed $7000 plus I had already paid a deposit to the hospital of $400 when I was preoped which the insurance co. would not apply to the deductible as they say it was included in the hospital negotiated reduction. Is there a law against doctors owning there own hospitals and having contract for service only at these facilities.
Is that the kaiser model? We have group health in Seattle and I work in the military system now and there is a lot more transparency.
It's shameful greed and needs outed as such and then banned
As you can see, even doctors don’t get a break in this messed up system (that is the best health care system in the world). For the record, most doctors can’t even understand the terms of their own health insurance policies.
-I used to manage a neuro practice and everything you say on this site rings true. We gave our patients the option to pay with cash and in almost all cases it was less then what we HAD to bill insurance. The only way for the market to adjust is if the financial relationship shifts back to the doctor and patient. We don't use our car insurance to pay for car maintenance, why do we use it to pay for healthcare? Keep up the good work, let me know how I can help.
-Back in the 1970's my mother worked for a local hospital in the ER where she would speak with people as they came in and would have to bill them for certain services, like an aspirin for example. She was a rigid rule follower her whole life, but was fired because she kept asking where her coworkers were getting prices from. People would avoid giving her a straight answer. There were no set prices that she could find and because she wouldn't cooperate and make up prices/play the game, she was fired. Looking back they must have been worried she would be a whistle blower which I can understand their concerns. Mom wanted everything fair and honest always. It was Bayfront Medical Center in St. Pete. Florida. Mom was not a stupid person and was detail oriented. It was the only job she was ever fired from.
-Love your website. I have worked on behalf of facilities for patients. I appeal insurance denials, and have tried for so many years to get people to understand what a nightmare insurance is. Obama doesn’t need to CHANGE insurance he needs to regulate the industry. It is bittersweet - if the insurance industry were not crooks, I would be unemployed. Thanks for the information!
Here’s an email I received very recently:
My husband recently has received a 80,000.00 hospital bill which my insurance company is refusing to pay, because I was not pre-approved. I am wondering what the protocol is to follow your plan with paying out of the pocket so to speak. Do I contact the hospital and not follow thru with the insurance company, and is your plan just active in California I would like to talk with you and see what I need to do to get the best rate.
Please call me at your convenience, because I need some help in order to do this the correct way.
I got in touch with this person and put her on the phone with my wife who gave her step by step instructions on how to appeal the claim. If she follows through, she’ll win, but most people don’t know that. It usually takes weeks of fighting with the insurance company before they give in. In the meantime, the insurance company will do everything they can to throw her off while, at the same time, the hospital will be sending her numerous threatening letters trying to get her to pay. This is how they treat people in our “best health care system in the world”.
-Saw this mentioned on Huff Post. Thank you SO MUCH for this site. I just wish I knew about it during these past 4 years of underemployment for our family. We have been ripped off with high deductible insurance and this info is invaluable for those of us with this type of scam insurance.
-Dr. Belk, Thank you for the research you have conducted on our behalf!! I always suspected the craziness but you have confirmed it. Blessings to you!
-brilliant. Absolutely first rate, concise writing that addresses a horribly complex subject in a way the average person can understand. Thank you. I am Canadian by birth and spend a lot of time in Canada although I live in the US. NONE of my Canadian family and friends can believe that Americans not only tolerate the kind of crazy games that health care in America is today, but some DEFEND it. I have insurance through the individual market and it has always been a crap shoot for me. I have some health issues so I can't go without, but this article actually made me feel ill. But thank you. I will be using some of your strategies in the future. I have a nearly 2000 dollar deductible and copays and coinsurance. If I get cancer, I will be spending 13,000 dollars out of pocket per year (including cost of premium) before everything is covered. INSANITY
And so on. Again, I’m very glad for all of the emails I’ve received. Please, keep them coming!