Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Transparency

One problem that many families discover the hard way is that healthcare expenses are difficult to predict and budget for. The most expensive problems in our lives outside of healthcare usually involve our home and our vehicles. However, with those issues, we can pretty easily find out how much a new paint job (on either), radiator (could be for both I guess), siding (for the car of course), or any other major problem might cost us.

However, when I was trying to plan for the delivery of my child, I was blown away how difficult pricing questions were to answer. I wanted to find an average price for an epidural and what to expect in costs for actual delivery. First, the billing agent contacted the anesthesiologist to find out his rates for the epidural, and we found that the rate depended on how long the anesthesiologist had to be present, i.e. $500-$1500. The epidural drug was about $100. So far, I understood the reasons for a variable price.

Now, when I wanted to get a rough estimate on the costs for labor and delivery there was no answer available to me. At no point was a schedule of fees offered (or probably even written). I understand that every patient is different and the needs vary, but is it unreasonable to get a list of costs for the planned portion of such a visit?

My point is not to complain, though I certainly can. My goal is just to tell you what you already know: planning for the costs of healthcare is nearly impossible, even if you know what you'll need to be cared for. Then, when the unexpected occurs, the already-non-existent budget goes out an additional window.

Would you get your car repaired if you had no idea how much it would cost? How can we fix this problem in healthcare in the future?

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