We already live in an unfortunate situation in America where when we are sick or injured, we expect the medical bill to be shockingly high. Every test, treatment, and drug that the doctor or nurse administers drives the price higher and higher and higher. And those tests can seem arbitrary. The costs of medical treatment can sky rocket when one suffers an injury caused by the negligence of another. Sadly, this is more true than anywhere else in the medical field when it comes to diagnostic tests.
Patients can Face Different Charges When it Comes to Scans
The New York Times recently reported on the problem of patients faces repeat and often times nonsensical charges for medical tests and scans. It told the story of a retired math professor who went through two separate outpatient echo-cardiograms in a three year period. One of the tests took a mere thirty minutes. The other took an hour and a half and involved a cardiologist. The longer test was done at a high end medical facility while the shorter test was done at just a regular local hospital. Yet, when the retiree received the bills for both tests, the shorter test cost $5,500 while the longer test only cost $1,400. This really bothered him.
Scans and Tests have Become the Soda of Medicine
The reason for this is that medical tests and scans have become the soda of medicine. Just like when you go to a restaurant and pay $2.50 to $3.50 for a soft drink that number is almost pure profit to the restaurant, the business side of medicine is starting to use medical tests as a profit building device. Scans and tests are often necessary when it comes to diagnosing medical conditions and a are a vital part of medical services, but they are also easy to mark up. While the upfront costs for buying the devices necessary to conduct these tests can be high, once the devices are paid for the actual costs of doing the tests are much lower.
Part of the Problem is that Costs Just Do Not Decrease
Part of the reason tests are so expensive in the United States even after the technology to perform them has been readily available for years is that hospitals are seeking to cover other, non-medical related costs. These can include things like fancy atriums in medical buildings, but they can also include the extremely high administrative costs required by a system as dependent on private insurers as ours. Medical professionals sometimes also claim the cost of medical malpractice claims is a factor, but a study by the Journal of the American College of Radiology shows that costs of these tests can be even higher in states where medical malpractice recoveries are capped. One surprising factor related to cost is that unlike in other industries where increased competition drives down price, in the case of medical tests like echo-cardiograms, the more machines there are to do the tests in a given area the higher the price gets.
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