If you were stung by a scorpion, what would you do? Hopefully, your first step would be to get to the Emergency Room. Then, unless you’re an expert on scorpion bites, you’d probably take the advice of your doctors for treatment. Sounds like a pretty solid game plan, right? Apparently not for a woman in Arizona.
Read the story here to see how one woman got billed more than $80,000 for a three hour stay and two doses of anti-venom at an Arizona hospital. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, what?!” But this story is completely true, and what the woman did was perfectly sensible. What’s scary, is that this could actually happen to any of us.
How did it happen?
1. She went to an out of network hospital.
We talked about this in earlier blog post, “What’s the deal with seeing a doctor “in the network?”. If you think going to an in-network hospital is pretty much the same as going to an out-of-network hospital, you could be in for some serious sticker shock. Not only do most insurance plans cover less of the cost if you go out of network, it also leaves you unprotected against unreasonable or higher than average billing charges.
2. She didn’t ask, they didn’t tell
When you’re in pain or scared and a doctor suggests a course of treatment, you’re probably going to say the same thing this woman did, which was, “Okay.” But you’d never buy a car this way. You’d ask the price. You’d ask if there were any other cars to consider. This is really how we all need to start looking at healthcare too. We have to ask, what does that cost? Will my health plan cover it? What are the other options and what will those cost? This woman could have bought a fully loaded Mercedes for the $80,000 she was charged.
There aren’t many industries that can do business this way. For example, you probably wouldn’t shop at a grocery store that didn’t tell you what your food costs until you reach the check stand. But that majority of healthcare providers operate under this system, and in this case, the lack of an upfront price tag put a hammering on this patient’s wallet.
What can you do to prepare yourself?
Don’t get us wrong – we’re not blaming this woman. When your mind is clouded by scorpion venom, it’s pretty difficult to evaluate things like “Am I seeing a doctor in my network?” or “Is this method of treatment the most cost effective?” Your only thoughts are probably around the, “Am I going to die?” train of thought. But we do want to help, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Our suggestion? Take five minutes, right now, and find out which local hospitals are in your health plan’s network. Pick one or two and memorize them. That way, if you ever in need of a hospital, barely able to process thoughts, and the paramedics ask you where you want to be taken, you can blurt out, “Saint Zelda’s!” without even thinking.
Do the same for Urgent Care – find the one(s) closest to your home, your workplace, your child’s school and commit the names to memory. Don’t leave it up to well-meaning co-workers or neighbors to just guess where you want to go.
What are your suggestions? What do you think of this case?