Dr. Kristen K. Schulte,PT
Would you buy groceries without knowing the price?
Picture this: You go to the supermarket for a week’s worth of food. As you walk down the aisles, the normal white and yellow price tags that typically adorn the shelves are not present. You think for second about how you typically weigh the price between the name brand and generic, or how a third brand that has a “Buy 3 and Save!” deal sometimes catches your eye, but there is none of this today. You don’t know the price of anything you are putting in your cart. Nevertheless, you came for groceries, so you decide to just get what is on your list because surely you will find out the price when the clerk scans at checkout. If there is anything too pricey, you can always choose at that time to forgo the item. Strangely, however, no prices in green block letters appear on the register as the items are scanned across. Your grocery bags are all loaded up into your cart as the clerk smiles and tell you to have a good day; it is clear that you are expected to make your way to your car now. You stand there dumbfounded with your credit card in hand.
“Wait,” you tell the clerk, “How much do I owe?”
“Oh!” she says, “You won’t be paying today. You will be billed 3 weeks from now.”
Would you stand for this? How do you know if your bill is $50 or $300? How are you to know if the Honeycrisp apples were on sale this week? You don’t, and by the sound of it, you will not know for multiple weeks, at which point not only will you have consumed all of the groceries, you likely will have made other grocery trips in the meantime (also to be billed “later”).
I might be taking my grocery shopping (or maybe my hard-earned money) a little too seriously, but I would not stand for this. I would venture to say that the vast majority of people would not either, and yet, we do this all of the time when we visit a healthcare provider. It is almost always billed later and at a cost that we ourselves cannot even begin to estimate. Just the other week, my husband required an X-Ray, and since we were trying to do our due diligence to find out where it would be cheapest, we called our health insurance company. We both smirked and rolled our eyes when the customer service representative on the phone cheerfully told us, “Well I cannot tell you for certain…” before launching into an estimate. When dealing with health insurance, nothing is certain, but you can be certain that you are in for a surprise bill.
So while we would never aimlessly buy groceries for an uncertain amount then pay for them later, why do we settle for this same model with something arguably more important than some produce: our health. Likely we stomach it because it is our health, and oftentimes we are in a position where we desperately want to do anything or pay anything to get better. But if we truly had costs laid out before us as would a typical grocery store where you could see the prices for different healthcare options or facilities, it likely would not change our will to get better. It may, however, change where we land. One option might be cheaper, one option might be better quality, or one option may be a mixture of both. The point is that the decision would be in our hands.
I like autonomy. I don’t like the uncertainty of surprise bills. This is exactly why we circumvent insurance at 212. It is the same price for a one-hour session every single time. It is the same high-quality care every single time. That is something for which you can be certain.