If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am an advocate of free market medicine. Force medical providers to advertise their prices like all the other businesses, let insurance cover catastrophic costs instead of everyday costs, and let market forces go to work.
In order for the free market concept to work, though, we have to get rid of the third party obfuscation, though. Right now, not many people care about the cost of a product because they aren’t paying for it. Third party “middlemen” are paying for the product.
I read a post on Kevin MD’s blog that puts free market principles into play.
Take all of those who are suffering from low back pain. You want to know if something might be wrong. Do you need an MRI? That depends. Is the pain acute or chronic? Are you having any “red flag” symptoms? Will you be willing to undergo surgery if something is wrong? You may need to see a primary care physician to see whether an MRI is warranted.
That’s another thing I would change with the system, by the way. Do away with the concept of requiring a physician’s order to obtain testing. You want an x-ray? Go to the radiology department, plop down your credit card, and get your x-ray. We can buy pregnancy tests, HIV tests, and glucose testing supplies over the counter, why can’t be buy urinalysis test strips or tests for strep throat? Why do we need a doctor’s order to have blood testing done? Don’t give me the song and dance about the dangers of x-rays, either. We allow tobacco companies sell lung rockets to any patient with a nicotine addiction as long as the packets have a label stating that the surgeon general has determined that cigarette smoking is bad for your health. Everybody is hereby warned that the surgeon general has determined that excess radiation is bad for your health. Done.
It would make the practice of medicine a lot easier and a lot less expensive if we didn’t erect so many barriers for patients to get testing done. Sorry about the tangent. Off the soapbox and back on topic.
Let’s say you get the prescription for an MRI of your low back. You lost your job and lost your COBRA coverage. You have to pay for everything out of pocket and you know how expensive MRIs can be. Where do you go to have your back MRI done? According to LesliesList.org, you can have your MRI done at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for$3800 plus the cost for the radiologist to interpret the films.
Or, if you want to have the exact same test done at the Lincoln Imaging Center in Chicago, according to LesliesList.org the test and reading fee together would cost you $325. That’s more than a twelvefold difference in price … in the same city … for the same exam.
Now maybe you want the university radiologists to read your scan and you’re willing to pay extra. Or maybe the Lincoln Imaging Center sees that the prices it is charging are too low and increases them to reflect the market pricing. The whole point is that prices will take care of themselves once customers begin voting with their feet and their wallets.
Hopefully LesliesList.org will be one of many resources that patients can use to decrease the costs of medical care.
Thumbs Up. We need more sites like this.