Reader Question: Why Can’t You Doctors Tell Me What My Cost Will Be?


I hear radio commercials with the smell good plumber. Why can’t you sneaky doctors learn to do that? I need to have a skin cancer removed from my face and went to a plastic surgeon. After arranging the surgery I called to ask what I would be paying after my insurance. They said they didn’t know. How can that be?

Health insurance is just as frustrating for your doctor’s office as it is for you. Believe it or not, when I do surgery under a patient’s insurance and bill a certain amount I really do not know what the insurer will pay on the case, when they will pay or what they will tell the patient to pay. Sometimes they assign most of the bill to the patient. Other times they try to discount the bill enormously. Still other times (really rarely) they pay the whole bill. Insurers actually pay variably for the exact same billing code between different patients and these differences can be huge. It plays out as a big game over months frequently.

When asked, my office staff can tell patients what billed surgeon’s fees for a particular insurance case will be, but prefaces that with the above facts. It is not fair, but it is not our fault either. If health insurers would pay reliably and consistently, we would not be charging patients as much and would be able to tell patients what their share of cost would be in a particular case. We might be able to use our insurance billing service less (which also costs us money) and simplify matters for everyone.

The way things are, the only way we can tell patients what their share of cost for surgical services will be is for cases in which their health insurance is not involved.

Best Regards,

John Di Saia MD

Originally posted 2011-06-08 07:30:28.

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