Think about the last time you bought a car. Cars don’t tickle me the way that they do some people, so my last car purchase was a 2010 Hyundai Elantra that I paid $10,000 for. The transaction went something like this: I started researching cars. I saved up some money for a car. I test-drove numerous cars. I visited a handful of dealerships. I made some offers. I received some counteroffers. I left. I came back. We eventually agreed on a price, I wrote a check and in exchange, received the keys and title to the car. Though it wasn’t the most glamorous car that’s ever been driven off a dealer’s lot, that transaction was capitalism at its finest. Capitalism, in its best forms, happens all the time, all around us. It happens at the grocery store, on Amazon.com, at the airport, and it even happens in seedy back alleys. The business of medicine, as we know it, is not capitalism.
Many people end up in need of medical care without warning. We often have no ability to contemplate our own medical condition. We cannot research treatment options and professionals. Sometimes we are rendered unconscious and others make these decisions on our behalf. These decisions end up being profoundly important. For some, these medical events and the treatment of medical issues will be the single most important experience in their lifetime. As personal injury lawyers, our line of work provides us with a unique vantage point to the financial relationship between patients and their doctors. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a series of blog posts sharing the observations we have been able to make from this vantage point.
At our personal injury law firm, Breen Goril Law, we represent many injured clients. When we resolve a case on behalf of an injured person who has received medical care, we routinely have to address payment for the medical care rendered to these individuals. We have a front row into how medical care is paid for in a variety of circumstances. Generally, there are a handful of ways that payment for medical care looks. If our client has health insurance, we negotiate a reimbursement with the health insurance company for what has been paid. If our client is a member of Medicare or Medicaid, we negotiate a reimbursement with Medicare or Medicaid. If our client does not have health insurance, we negotiate directly with the medical service providers themselves. Other contexts that exist include medical payments insurance coverage (medpay) and workers compensation insurance. All of these sources of medical payments operate in their own different way subject to their own different set of rules. The opportunity to regularly work with medical bills affords us with a unique perspective on the absurd way that we pay for medical care in this country. Some of the most absurd takeaways will be discussed in the coming weeks as we take a deep dive into each of these areas.
One of the most shocking aspects of paying for medical treatment – in fact the driving motivation in writing these blog posts – is the notion that you, the consumer of medical care, have much less control over the process as a whole. Health insurance is expensive and health care is even more expensive. Usually a person who makes expensive investments expects a degree of control over how an expensively purchased asset is wielded. Unfortunately, with medical care there is very little control over how much the care costs, how the care is paid for, and how much of the care is paid for. While the whole process can seem overwhelming there are a few tips you will be able to takeaway from these posts to put yourself back in control when it comes to your medical care.