Medicine: The Greatest Consumer Fraud in Existence

I had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon yesterday to discuss the leg length disparity and back pain that I talked about a few weeks ago. Aside from the leg length issue, it also turns out I have mild scoliosis. Terrific. At least I know why my back has hurt for 20 years.

So then we get down to the point – what can we do about it. He gives me a prescription for 4 weeks of physical therapy, 3 times a week. The basic premise is that through core strengthening, along with a lot of massage, this, that, throw in an MRI, we should be able to make the duration between episodes of back pain longer. We won’t be able to get rid of the episodes though. I’m stuck with em. But that’s fine. At least we can improve the situation.

Knowing that PT costs money, I call my insurance to find out what percentage I will owe, and then I narrow down the list of therapists in my plan down to a place right here in town near my office. Seemed convenient, so I called over to find out how much, general ballpark, the sessions cost.

They can’t even begin to tell me.

What?

And this is precisely why I hate healthcare. It’s legalized extortion. You have no visibility up front into what you will be required to pay. What a wonderful commodity healthcare is where you blindly consume, then at least one month later discover how badly you were ripped off. After 10 minutes on the phone, even offering to fax a list over from my doctor describing the specific therapies I need, this place couldn’t even offer up an estimate of how much my care would cost. Only after the first visit was complete could they then estimate how much each session would set me back. Of course. After I had already consumed the service. I explained to the person I spoke with how doing something like that in no way addresses my upfront concern about cost and in fact completely contradicts what I am trying to do by making this phonecall. And this person agreed, bringing the whole thing uselessly full circle.

Yes, I can call around, find some place less convenient, finally find a place that will give me some answers, but why should I have to hunt for the prices on the menu. They’re all closely guarded secrets, all so difficult to estimate, let alone compute. Fine. You can keep them. This menu sucks. I’m not eating. I rarely like the taste and it’s overpriced anyway.

Knowing there are at least two redemption mechanisms downstream to deal with the consequences of an absurd price (health insurance and sick person), doctors, practitioners, providers of durable medical equipment, you name it, they all do the exact same thing. It’s a racket. The price starts high, and has progressively been shrunk by the time it reaches the sick person, with insurance and other programs eating chunks along the way. It’s quite a scheme. There is the pesky inevitability of higher insurance costs and ultimately higher costs of care due to inflation and the uninsured and general greed, but in the end, all of that shit flows downstream anyway, right to where the sick people are. Medicine is quite an industry.

So that’s a fine sentiment, but it doesn’t really solve my problem of needing therapy. So I’ll improvise. I’ll do some core work on my own, and I’ll see a personal trainer a few times to make sure I’m doing the right things. At $50 a pop, it’s a little steep. But I’ll happily pay an honest business. Unlike the health care industry, for which I pay a monthly health insurance premium just to participate in, at least I know what it costs.

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