My son’s last visit typifies one of the biggest problems with the American Healthcare System today. The doctor requested that we have routine lab work done to establish a baseline. We were sent to Quest Diagnostics and were expected to just schedule an appointment and get the blood drawn with no questions asked.
Wait a minute! What about the cost? How much do I have to pay for this little blood draw? Apparently, that’s an unacceptable question, and I think that’s a major problem with our whole healthcare system. Everything is deemed a necessity and we expect that our insurance provider will just pay for it.
We have Christian Healthcare Ministries as our “insurance” provider. I know it’s not really an insurance, but I believe it meets our needs and protects our family much better than any option available to us. As a result, routine healthcare costs are our responsibility. And, it’s our job to negotiate price.
Our doctor sent the request for labs to Quest Diagnostics. Apparently, Lab Corp and Quest are the two options that we have in our area. I was easily able to schedule the appointment online. The only problem was that the online page didn’t give me the option to talk to anyone and ask about the cost.
I tried to call Quest, but that was a nightmare. Apparently, at our local Quest facility, they don’t have anyone in the office available to answer phones. You can’t talk to anyone at the location where you are supposed to have the work done.
If I remember correctly, I got a number to call from Quest’s Corporate Drug testing line. When I finally spoke with someone, they couldn’t help me. They needed to know what test codes were ordered. That raised red flags to me! How are they going to know what tests to perform when we get there? We don’t want to show up only to find out that they didn’t get the order.
After pushing further, Quest was able to tell me that they had received the doctor’s order, but she wasn’t able to look in it and see what was ordered. I’m thinking, “How will they be able to look at it when they go to do the actual test?” She said that I needed to contact the doctor’s office to get the codes.
So, after calling the doctor’s office, we were told the codes: CBC, UA, CMP, and LIPID. Then, Quest said those aren’t the right codes. I guess they aren’t specific enough. I finally emailed Christian Healthcare Ministries. I was hoping that someone else had gone through this before. Surely, others had dealt with Quest before. The only response was that the doctor should know the codes.
After pushing the doctor, I was finally able to get some test code numbers. Three out of the four were able to be looked up on Quest’s automated phone system. I had to track down someone to talk to for the fourth code. Here’s the prices.
By this time, I had done a few web searches. I found that Quest advertised a $99 test on their website that covered at least three of those tests. They would not honor that price, and we could not order it on the website because my son was a minor. Then, I found Health Test Direct. Their prices were much better:
The only problem was that Health Tests Direct would only sell to adults. They would not do any testing of under age kids. (It sounded like they support anonymity, and age was not required to be disclosed, but we were worried that when the test was done, they would notice he was not an adult.)
I tried to call Health Tests Direct to see if it made a difference that the doctor had ordered these tests or if there was anything they could do. After some pushing, the person mentioned they had heard Life Extension might allow kids.
Life Extension ended out solving our problems! They did their testing through Lab Corp rather than Quest, so I had to go back to the doctor to confirm that we were getting the right tests (the codes were different). I was able to talk to a person on the phone from Life Extension, and she was super helpful and patient. Here’s the prices:
We were able to order the tests online. Then, we scheduled the appointment at Lab Corp. We didn’t have to pay anything when we went in. They just took my son’s blood and we were done. (I did notice, they did not have a secretary or anyone able to answer the phone just like Quest.) We received an email the next day with a PDF of the lab results. Not too long after that, we receive a paper copy in the mail, which we hand delivered to the doctor.
So, in the end, we got it done for a reasonable price. But, why did there have to be so much pain and suffering along the way? If the majority of their clients actually cared about what they paid, don’t you think that Lab Corp and Quest Diagnostics would get competitive? How many other health costs are the same way (outpatient surgeries, well visits, medications, etc)? Is that what is driving our insurance premiums up to where we were looking at $2,000 / month with $10,000 deductibles?
We’ve got to change our culture so that it is normal to shop around for health care just like we do for anything else.