When I needed to get a test done at my local hospital, my first thought was to ask around and search the internet to determine what this would cost me. I’ve tried to ask the hospital directly before but have been told they can’t tell me what a procedure will cost until after it’s complete. What I thought would be a $1,000 test turned out to be $8,000. Stories like mine are surprisingly common, but Texas lawmakers have an opportunity to ensure that future patients don’t suffer from sticker shock as I did.
Getting personal: My doctor and I discussed a fertility-related diagnostic test and determined it was necessary to see any possible causes of why I’ve been unable to get pregnant. This procedure involves a radiologist, so I understood the higher cost associated with the test. I also knew ahead of time I would have to cover 100% because my insurance would not help since the test was related to fertility.
When the bill came two months later, my husband opened it, handed it to me, and said, “Don’t panic—we’ll figure this out.” I laughed when I saw the amount due because I thought there’s no way this is real. Then the worry started. We have been saving in anticipation of needing IVF treatment. Would that opportunity be put on hold because of this procedure that now felt incredibly futile? Infertility is hard enough, and this bill was like a twist on the knife already in my back.
The next day, I called the hospital and asked for an itemized bill, hoping to find a mistake. Without skipping a beat, they offered me a 75% discount. I was shocked. How many people pay a bill because they don’t think they have any other option? I, like many millennials, pay all of my bills online without ever speaking to the charging party. How many people ignore a high bill and take a hit to their credit instead? After all, who has $8,000 sitting around like loose change?
Still thinking that the test should cost less than what the hospital offered, my husband and I started calling around. Looking for any insight or help, we called my insurance company, my doctor who ordered the test, my general PA who was familiar with the test, and finally ran the issue up through the hospital. In the end, we paid the hospital’s discounted price. We felt grateful not to have paid $8,000 but still felt taken advantage of.
The most frustrating thing is that after paying the bill I learned that the next city’s hospital, roughly 15 minutes away, charges less than $1,000 for the test. Situations like this could be why nearly nine out of 10 people believe that all healthcare prices should be disclosed. Those polled above also said that they would feel more comfortable getting the care they may need if they knew the costs in advance.
Fortunately, there are some measures being considered during the 87th Legislature which would ensure transparency in health care. Transparent health care rates could mean a difference of hundreds or, in my case, thousands of dollars saved by families. We have price transparency in virtually every aspect of our lives—airline tickets, vehicle purchase prices, buying a home, you name it. Why should health care be any different?