Friday, January 04, 2008

Price Matters

Today I went to a walk-in clinic in Oak Ridge, TN. I've had a cough for about 5 months but it's gotten a lot worse since we've returned from Moldova and I can hardly sleep at night.

As I waited in the lobby I heard complaints from other patients about how this is the slowest and worst clinic, how coming here is an all-day affair, etc. I waited about an hour before I was called. They were pretty efficient in their tests and things, it was just over another hour before I was done.

In the end, they diagnosed it as something having flared up my long-dormant asthma, and I have bronchitis on top of that. I was given:
1. A chest X-ray.
2. A TB test.
3. I was hooked to one of those breathing machines for asthmatic people.
4. A consultation with a doctor.

The doctor was good about not giving me other things because they were expensive, and she even called around to see if it would cheaper to get an x-ray elsewhere. I appreciated that.

When I went to pay, the initial bill was $107. But, they took $41 off the bill simply because I was paying immediately. So, it cost me $66 total for the visit. I was quite pleased to get all of these things and was reminded of two things:

1. Paying up front (sometimes in cash) gets you discounts. Every company knows that if someone walks out their door without paying their entire bill there's a good chance they'll never get their money.
2. If I had had insurance, the full bill would have been $107. Partly because of the above reason. While I would not have had to pay that full amount, the total inflated bill would have contributed to the inflated cost of health care in America.

The doctor wrote prescriptions for 4 items, two of which were generic. I got them filled at Wal-Mart to try and save a little extra. In all, they cost me much more money than the visit itself. (Actually, someone else paid for all these items, so we're thankful).

But, I appreciated the quality and discount at the clinic. If you're ever sick in Oak Ridge, check out the Park Med Urgent Care Center.


Jessica said...

Kroger has started offering several prescriptions at $4. Don't know how they can afford that, but you might want to check them out if you need anything else.

Hope you start feeling better soon!

wiley said...

kroger actually matches all the medications on the wal-mart $4 prescription list. i worked at kroger pharmacy and it was one of the biggest pains having to check it against that list and change the price for people... but it was very helpful for many people. Still some more wealthy people would take advantage of it, which I didn't like too much.

Ryan said...

Hope you're feelign better!

JTapp said...

Thanks for the well wishes! We're in 28.8kbps land in KY, so no posting. I'm collecting some good post material, though!

d blake said...

the md weighs in...

1. Money collected up front is definitely the way to go. We give a 20 percent discount to any cash-pay customer who pays up front, plus I often charge those folks at a lower level. the typical cash-pay office visit charge is $47, compared to $74 for the typical insurance patient (but then insurance discounts that charge). I would definitely rather collect $47 at the time of visit, than have a $74 charge that never gets paid.

2. $107 is ridiculously low for an office visit, chest x-ray (cxr), tb skin test, and a breathing treatment. most places would probably charge $150-$200 for a chest x-ray alone; the charge includes the chest x-ray itself and the interpretation of the film.