By: Tim Callender, Esq.
I recently had a sinus infection. No, I’m not a doctor, but I’m intelligent enough, and know my sinuses well enough to know when it’s either a sinus infection or that my head is full of concrete. In this case – I figured it was the former. In the spirit of true healthcare consumerism and responsible utilization of my health plan, I did not go to the E.R. I went to the ever famous, “doc in the box.” Prior to walking into the reception area, I told myself I would report as self-pay, not tap my health insurance, and see how it all might shake out. I figured it couldn’t cost too much and it would give me something interesting to talk about in my field (hence today’s blog). Long story short, I walked into the clinic, approached the receptionist and said, “Hi! I’m pretty sure I have a sinus infection, but I’m no doctor! Can you let me know how much it might cost to see the doctor, and, I’m guessing I’ll end up with some antibiotics.” The receptionist stared at me as though I’d said, “Tightrope coffeemaker last Tuesday the river swelled and I’ve always wanted to see Greece!” As you can imagine, I was asked numerous questions about “my insurance.” I repeatedly told the receptionist that I didn’t want to use my insurance, that I wanted to pay their clinic cash, “today,” and simply wanted an idea what it might cost. I emphasized, numerous times, “I want to pay you – real money – today – you won’t have to bill me.” Again, I’m fairly certain my words came across as, “I bought a boat and my cousin plays fiddle on a cloud dressed like Dracula!” The communication breakdown was clearly my fault. Long story short, the receptionist finally circled up with a handful of clinic employees and they were finally able to tell me that my doctor’s visit would probably cost me anywhere from “$150.00 to $700.00.” Figuring I couldn’t lose with such a specific quote, I charged ahead. While in the doctor’s office, he told me he wanted to give me a cortisone shot to “get things moving in the right direction.” When I asked him how much the shot might cost, he replied, “don’t worry about that – your insurance will cover it.” I quickly dropped the mic in the middle of the exam room by letting him know I would be paying cash, out of my pocket, for any billing received that day. Suddenly, the cortisone shot was not necessary, I was given a prescription for an antibiotic, and I was quickly ushered from the premises like a free-market trouble maker. Of course, I did pay them somewhere between $150.00 and $700.00 before leaving.