Skip to Content

Healthcare professionals explain why bills shouldn’t be bankrupting patients

As part of our station’s nine-part healthcare series, our parent company, News Press and Gazette, asked us to look into why each hospital across the region charges different prices for common procedures.

Here’s that list, NPG wanted you to have access to, citing the American Health Directory.

However, while researching this story, it didn’t take long to find out those numbers are inconsequential, at best.

Retired Health West board member and Your Health Idaho chairman Stephen Weeg said prices differ based on several important factors.

“I’ll make the analogy – we all buy cars but never pay the sticker price,” Weeg pointed-out.

Weeg adds procedural costs differ depending on: how big the hospital is, what type of complex amenities the hospital provides if the hospital has an emergency room, special services, etc.

That’s your starting point.

But then, you bring-in insurance companies who also play a part in how much you’ll be paying for your procedure.

Weeg pointed-out, each insurance company usually negotiates a contract with each hospital, doctor, and medical provider, determining how much you’ll be paying either in or out of network.

“There’s a lot that goes into experienced, high-quality health care. If they do it well, your length of stay is shorter and your recovery is better,” he added.

This means you could be paying more for better-quality care with more-experienced doctors who will not be sending you home with infections and other added costs for their mistakes you later find out about.

“We want a Mercedes Benz level of health care at a Volkswagen price…because if you have a heart attack at three o’clock in the morning, you’re not worried about price.”

But still, most of these factors are actually driving the price you pay down from what’s listed.

Just like Weeg, Idaho Kidney Institute nephrologist Dr. Fahim Rahim is urging patients to do something most people never thought they were even allowed to do — negotiate the cost of the procedure.

“If I told you to walk into Fred Meyer tomorrow and hid all of the price labels so you have no idea what the cost of your groceries are, you could be getting a bill six months later for five thousand dollars,” Rahim equated. “But then it’s not even an itemized bill so you can’t even tell how much you paid for each grocery item because you never questioned it.”

He’s been leading the charge for doctors to help put an end to healthcare prices charging patients more than they can afford to pay.

“As part of the Hippocratic Oath which I have hanging on the wall right behind you there, ‘Do no harm’ also means not operating on a patient and bankrupting them,” Rahim added.

He’s been researching this issue on his own for years, saying no particular entity in the healthcare system is to blame or single-handedly accountable.

“If I want change, it has to start with me.”

However, he’s been arguing for transparency with the cost breakdown, and he says it starts with the doctors helping their patients find the best prices on prescriptions and lab tests, and patients being willing to question the costs along the way.

Both Weeg and Rahim say the hospitals, insurance companies, doctors, and everyone else involved in the healthcare process are all just trying to keep-up with rising costs.

Rahim believes, if costs are continued to be called into question and transparency is improved, the entire system could potentially balance itself out.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

News Team


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content