Every six months I go to the same facility and have either a mammogram or an MRI. These are routine screenings that are part of my post breast cancer life. And of course, I have to fill out the same forms, providing the same medical history – which is amusing because it is the same facility where I was diagnosed, treated and now routinely seen for ongoing care. If any institution would know my medical history, it would be this one. But I digress.
Today, something new and exciting happened when I arrived for my routine screening. In addition to the same paperwork asking about my medical history, I received an “Estimated Patient Financial Obligation Summary”.
This piece of paper showed in black and white (with yellow highlighter) the dollar amount that I as the patient was expected to pay for this service. It was the most information on pricing or costs that I’ve ever received before a diagnostic exam was administered (besides going to a Take Care or Minute Clinic).
They weren’t asking for payment at the time of treatment, and there was a note indicating this was only an estimate as the actual amount due may differ from the estimated amount if the order was changed or additional studies performed. But clearly the provider and my insurance company had communicated, since they showed my individual and family deductible, the expected co-payment and co-insurance amount, and the non-covered portion of the charges. The bottom line was the “Estimated Patient Payment”.
Despite these caveats I was smarter and better informed about the price of this procedure. Would it make me pull out my phone and comparison shop? Not when I had waited weeks to have the screening and routinely use this institution for all my care. But, I would be better prepared the next time. And I knew that I should fully fund my health savings account to cover the inevitable bill from the hospital. And I knew what dollar amount to expect so that if I had to, I could budget for it.
Transparency – even when the price is high – is a great thing.