Unfortunately, I have had occasion to be hospitalized twice within the past twelve months. Neither experience was very pleasant, but the associated confusion was quite educational. And unless there comes a major reversal in the political environment, the blessings of Obamacare are about to make things significantly more complicated.

The moral is; don't get sick; and if you do get sick, the hospital, with all those creepy little things crawling around, is the worst possible place for you to be. However, sometimes, we simply have no choice.

Health_care_money_640No, I'm not going to question the accuracy of the diagnoses, or quality of the medical services provided, although I will admit becoming a bit skeptical when a staff "hospitalist" told me that a PSA reading of 400 was normal. (You men will know the significance of that, and you women have your own problems, so don't ask.) I will therefore confine myself to the business end of things.

As an example, and being of Medicare age with a Blue Cross/Blue Shield supplement, I just got a statement for $3,379.00, covering services rendered by a local hospital last June. I have no idea what the services were. In fact, I don't recall being hospitalized last June. November? Yes. July? Yes. But June, I don't think so. Nonetheless, there it was. However, after the Medicare "adjustments," and BC/BS "allowances," they said that I "may owe provider" $26.70.

If and when a provider sends such a bill, I will pay it, and not worry about the other $3,352.30. If the bill is itemized, it will probably name some doctor or institution I never heard of, doing all sorts of nasty things I never authorized. But I really don't care what they did, or how much they charged, as long as they let me off the hook for only $26.70. I guess somebody must have paid the difference. Probably you. And therein lies the problem.

And if we think it's bad now, just wait until Obamacare kicks in with the 30 - 40 million additional un-insured, plus the un-insurables, plus the "children's" coverage through age 26, plus the usual bureaucratic skimming off the top. The costs for all this has got to be paid by someone, and unfortunately, one way or the other that means you!

But I did learn that medical costs are negotiable, even drug and hospital costs. My first clue came when I went to get a $26 prescription transparency mattersrefilled, and the second time around the same pharmacy charged me $96.40. When I complained, the druggist admitted that he had mistakenly charged me the "insurance" price, rather than the cash price. He refunded the difference.

I then had cataract surgery on both eyes. So before we began, I asked the eye clinic if they would settle for whatever they could weasel out of Medicare, with no further deductibles or other co-payments from me. They agreed, and they did. The graph illustrates the wide range of fees being charged for the same medical procedures in the same community -- San Francisco. So it does pay to shop... even for doctors and hospitals.

With these problems being commonplace, so-called "alternative" medical services are becoming more available. The Surgery Center of Oklahoma has been in the news recently. Just click on its webpage, select the part of the body you want operated on, and they will quote you a price -- right over the Internet!

There are many others, including Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital.
Although their services are directed toward patients who come south of the border to escape the Canadian version of Obamacare, they will accept US patients. They offer the following statement concerning their fees:

"The most common cost associated with a consultation appointment is between $211 US and $282 US, depending on your condition and the amount of time you spend with the physician. For any services paid out-of-pocket, you will receive a 40% discount. Henry Ford accepts cash, credit card or cashier's check. Payment will be collected when you check in for your appointment. Call
1-888-635-4347."

There is even Medibid, where you can shop for doctors and hospitals from all over the country. You can research the certifications of the facilities, and the training, education, and experience of the available doctors before you make your selection. Once you do, choose a few and then have them bid for your patronage.

So it goes. We didn't ask for this problem, but there are emerging more and more ways that we can protect ourselves from the medical crisis being imposed upon us by our elected officials. Stay tuned. Things are changing whether we like it or not.

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