The single most disheartening line I tell my patients every day is: “Let’s focus on your health, that is the only thing that is important right now.”
Physicians across the country repeat this line almost verbatim whenever a patient expresses any concern about cost. It helps reaffirm our purpose – we went into medicine to save lives, not manage finances – but mostly, it is a way to deflect our discomfort with the truth: we have no idea, and no way of finding out, how much your blood test, CT scan or surgical procedure will cost you.
With the rise of high-deductible insurance plans, there has been a palpable increase in the number of patients who want to know the costs of their tests before they are ordered. This is entirely understandable when people are paying over $13,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses despite having insurance. Unable to access prices or actually shop around, however, patients begin to decide which parts of their care they can forego altogether.