A friend writes:
“Shoveling our voluminous heavy snow wreaked my lower back to new lows and, during an annual physical exam, my doc showed me a sample lumbar support (called back brace in the medical equipment world) that a rep left him.
“It was quantitatively better than what I’d previously purchased at Home Depot. I contacted the rep, whose
company has him a) on salary and b) making house calls (kudos on both counts).
“He came over and I tried several models. In the professional medical world these devices are also used post-surgically and are available in quite built-up form. In that form the Medicare-encodable item bills at $800; for self-pay or cash customers it’s $400.
“The stripped-down belt, which provides 80% of the support, bills at $400 for Medicare; for self-pay or cash customers, it’s $175-200. I found and obtained the item for $75 on Amazon, a price point offered by multiple vendors.”
A related question: How much does an Aircast cost? Not long ago another friend got a stress fracture from running. The orthopedist who diagnosed it put him in an Aircast. Since he was on a high-deductible plan and had not yet met his deductible, he was responsible for buying the Aircast, which was billed at $500.
Looking at the Aircast and the bill, he had the idea that such an item should be less expensive. He went to Amazon, and found it for $90. He went back to the doctor and explained that he thought the bill must be in error.
The doctor explained that the price was right, and that the markup was needed to cover overhead. My friend still wasn’t satisfied.
The doctor said, “How much do you think you should pay?”
My friend answered, “$90.” And that’s what he wrote a check for.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.