I finally got the bill for the surgery (pdf). It was quite high compared to the estimate I received. I recorded the calls I made to each of the doctors offices when I was trying to find the cheapest one. Here you can listen to a person at the Boulder Valley Center for Dermatology (they gave the cheapest estimate) give me a quote of ~$110 (on average) for the initial doctors visit and “between $200 and $300 to remove the lipoma, but the doctor would be able to tell me better.” Well, when I asked the doctor and the doctors assistant how much it would be at each of my visits, all they could tell me is that “it depends” and “it’s hard to tell.”So, what was the damage? The initial visit was billed at $165. The surgery came to $1,639, ouch! I expected it to be a little higher than what I was quoted, maybe even $600, $700? But it was over 5x higher than the ballpark estimate I was given on the phone. “It’s hard to tell?” I guess so!
No wonder consumer directed health plans aren’t getting any traction. What was the point of calling around to get the best price? Was she just making it up off the top of her head? We have a long way to go before healthcare is an actual “free market” system. In order for this whole “free market” idea to take hold, I really think it would take government intervention like John Goodman, the “father of health savings accounts” used in his example. Hmm… free market requires government intervention? There’s no way in hell people are going to just voluntarily switch to high deductible health plans in this kind of environment.
Also, one common thread I noticed when calling around to the doctors offices to get estimates: they were surprised that I even cared about the price. “Don’t you have insurance?” I don’t think they get too many people price shopping for their healthcare quite yet.
Any ideas on how I can get my bill more in line with the original estimate? Even if I get a 50% discount like Michael Cannon, I’m still overpaying by about $500.