A plastic surgeon is being sued by California State because she charges patients fees in excess of what insurance pays for her services. California’s lawsuit alleges that the doctor poses a “substantial, irreparable, and unjustified threat to the financial livelihood” of her patients.
In addition, the California Medical Board is attempting to revoke her medical license because she is allegedly engaging in “unprofessional conduct” by requiring patients visiting emergency rooms to sign agreements to pay her costs if their insurance companies didn’t.
I’m not going to try to justify the fees that the doctor charges. More than $12,000 to repair a fingertip is a lot of money.
However, with one caveat, I think that the actions taken by the state and the medical board are way out of line.
Suing a doctor and trying to revoke her license because she wants to get paid the asking price for her services? If people don’t want to pay her price, then don’t use her. Go see another “professional.”
You go to work at a new job where you agreed that you would be paid $50/hour. You work 40 hours, and expect to get a check for $2,000 at the end of the week. As you leave work Friday, your boss gives you a check for $200.
“Sorry,” he says, “if you don’t like it, you’ll have to go take it up with the company CEO. That’s all I’m paying you for your work.” The company CEO tells you “we pay other workers $5/hour, therefore we can pay you that much, also.”
You try to sue to get your money, but a court says it is against the law for you to demand to be fully reimbursed for your work because the corporation that reimburses your boss pays $5/hour, therefore it is legally entitled to pay you that same amount. Since you’ve already completed the work, you try to sue the company for your back wages. Then the state files a lawsuit against you because you filed a lawsuit against your employer.
Or imagine going into a lawyer’s office, agreeing to pay the lawyer his fee, receiving the services, then sending the lawyer a check for 10% of the total fee as payment in full. You’d be back in court so fast it would make your head swim.
That is the position this doctor is being put in. She performed the work at the patients’ request, the patients signed a form stating that they would pay her full price for her services, then, when she tried to collect the money from the patient after performing her services, the state stepped in and said that the doctor must agree to the amount a third party wanted to pay her.
The caveat in this whole mess is that the patients should know what they could end up paying the plastic surgeon before she renders her services. If that occurs, the patients get to decide whether or not the costs are worth the perceived benefits. If the patients agree to such costs, then they should be held responsible for paying the agreed-upon price.
The patients refused to have the emergency physician repair their wounds and demanded that they be treated by a “professional”. Now they’re accepting the “professional’s” services without planning on paying her the price that she asked?
Wonder why there are so many specialists who aren’t providing care to emergency department patients?
I also wonder whether specialists would be considered “unprofessional” if they required retainer fees before providing services. Would the state take action against them then? Lawyers do it all the time. No money, no representation.
Looks like a lot of patients are going to be stuck with us all of us sub-“professional” emergency docs for their emergency department treatment in California.
I wonder if this whole “we’ll pay you what WE think is fair” line of reasoning would work when the doctor went to pay her California state taxes …