unless these prices are known to the patient in advance of treatment, they’re useless.
after being hit in the face with a hockey puck while coaching a hockey practice (i had a hole cut all the way through my upper lip, my brow was cut, and my vision in one eye was blurry), i walked into the ER, uninsured, and asked the receptionist what the cost of entry was. she did not know. after going back and forth with her about not going in unless she could tell me the cost of entry (i even played the card that i had suffered a head injury, didn’t know who i was, had no identification, and wanted to be treated as a john doe), a nurse came out, took one look at me bleeding and arguing, and told me that not being stitched up wasn’t an option. she finally convinced me to go in, but i denied everything that she offered. pillow? how much? i don’t know. no. ice pack? how much? i don’t know. no. pain meds? how much? i don’t know. no. novacaine? how much? i don’t know. no. (she eventually snuck me an ice pack on the house.)
the doctor then came over to tell me that i needed a ct scan and a corneal abrasion test to rule out eye injury. how much? i don’t know. no. i made this point to him: i know that you’re trying to do what’s best for me, but could you imagine me taking you to the grocery store, trusting me to fill your cart, not telling you what anything costs, and having nothing cost what you think it does and then taking you to checkout and forcing you to pay for it all without the option to put anything back or return anything — and if you don’t, you might suffer permanent injury or death? that would be fucking ridiculous. yet, that’s the business model that the american healthcare system is based on. not a single person providing (but really selling) the services had actually seen a bill. (my companion is a physician and she has confirmed that she has never seen a patient bill.)
in the end, the bill was $2,000: $1,000 for nine stiches and $1,000 just for walking in. had i not denied everything but the stitches, risking my long-term health in the process, the bill could have easily been in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.
and this is for a minor injury AND i was awake and aware to deny care and keep the bill down. fuck being taken in by ambulance with major injuries while being unconscious and without insurance. imagine waking up to that bill.