Health care providers keeping secrets: Lee Zurik and Jed Lipinski, Cracking the Code

Filed Under: Costs, Health plans, Patients

Dear hospitals: Please don’t keep secrets from us!

Here’s Lee Zurik of WVUE Fox 8 Live in a new installment of our Cracking the Code partnership in New Orleans. The topic: What happens when people don’t know prices in advance, and wind up with burdensome — or ruinous — bills.

Here’s Jed Lipinski of I The Times-Picayune on the topic:
“When Maria Magee received an echocardiogram at Louisiana Heart Hospital in Lacombe last year, she assumed her insurance company, Cigna, would cover most of the cost.

(Disclosure: I’m listed as a contributor to both Jed’s and Lee’s work under our partnership.)

“As it turned out, Cigna covered nothing, leaving Magee with a $776 bill. But as she learned from a relative who works for the hospital, the cash price for the same procedure – what a person without insurance is billed – was around $400, nearly half the cost. Outraged, Magee called Cigna to complain.

“‘They told me, “You could have called and asked the price before you had it done,”‘ Magee, a retiree, recalled during an interview at her home in Washington Parish. ‘But you’re not thinking about this when your doctor is ordering all these tests.

“Had she known ahead of time that the cash price was less expensive, she added, she would happily have paid it, rather than undergo the ‘privilege of using my own insurance.’

“Magee’s story is not uncommon. Most people are not aware that many hospitals and other medical providers offer cash prices for services that, in some cases, wind up being cheaper than what patients would pay using their medical insurance.” For the rest of the story, click here. Click on the image below to see the FOX 8 Live piece.


For more from our series, go to this page describing the Cracking the Code partnership of I The Times-Picayune, WVUE FOX 8 Live and ClearHealthCosts, and cataloging our news coverage. For more on our national partnerships, go to this page.

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Click over to our New Orleans PriceCheck interactive software at WVUE Fox 8 Live and at I The Times-Picayune. Search our prices in our New Orleans-focused partnership. For non-New Orleans shares and searches, here’s the search and share page on our national ClearHealthCosts site.

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