6 Things Doctors Do to Make You Pay More
If you have ever wondered whether your doctor is charging you more than necessary, wonder no more.
In a study of 429,000 physicians done by two CPAs from Johns Hopkins University in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was found that doctors, on average, are charging more than twice what Medicare pays.
One surgeon explained that he actually charges five times more than what Medicare pays because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t make enough money!
While it is easy to see his point of view, the bottom line is that he and his colleagues are overcharging in order to beat the system.
However, when they do that, patients end up paying more for their care in terms of copayments, testing, increased insurance costs and other fees.
Bad as this may be, it is only one method doctors use to increase their bottom lines.
Why Do They Do This?
The average person does not realize the tremendous financial pressures doctors must deal with.
Currently, medical schools charge from $35,000 to $50,000 per year. These costs are in addition to the $30,000 per year (or more) that they paid for their undergraduate training as well as the costs of food, shelter and transportation for the eight years they were in school.
Thus the cost of tuition can add up to more than a quarter of a million dollars! This means that a young doctor begins his career burdened with debt.
If he eventually starts his own practice, he then has to take on the costs of
- office space,
- malpractice Insurance,
- furniture and
- utility bills,
The financial pressures are immense, and even though most doctors make six figure incomes.
Don’t Doctors Make Enough Money?
Bear in mind that it takes doctors 10 years longer than the average college graduate before they start earning. Furthermore, not all doctors have equal incomes.
For example a family physician earns around $207,000 annually, but Orthopedic Surgeons earn almost twice that much!
Thus, depending on the amount of debt a doctor has as compared to his income, it is easy to see how some can be tempted to give into their financial pressures by doing things such as
- purposely misdiagnosing patients
- requiring too many office visits,
- prescribing overly expensive medications,
- selling health care products out of their offices,
- recommending their own rehab facilities and
- creating illegal charges.
While these things may seem innocent enough, the truth is that each one of them represents conflicts of interest that likely will not benefit patients but will cause them to spend more of their money with their doctor.
For example, a doctor may prescribe a very expensive medication instead of a cheaper one that will do the same job because he makes money on every single one of these prescriptions he writes!
What Happens That Causes This?
It is common knowledge that many doctors are poor money managers. This is likely because they are so busy, that they just don’t have time to manage their finances appropriately.
So, when they start losing instead of gaining, some slip into the abyss of unethical or illegal behavior.
You read about them all the time in the paper and wonder why people who make so much money would threaten their careers by doing such things.
Well, if you’ve been paying attention to what I’ve written here, the answer is pretty clear.
While it appears that they are making a lot of money, they also have huge expenses.
Furthermore, many don’t know anything about financial management, so it’s very easy for them to lose fortunes on bad land deals or poor stock choices.
On the other hand, some just tire of the struggle and decide to do whatever they can to increase their bottom line.
As a patient, you owe it to yourself to be vigilant so that you don’t end up overpaying.
There are obvious clues you should pay attention to that will tell you whether your doctor is functioning normally or is doing things that can affect your wallet.
One of the more blatant ways that doctors use to increase earnings is to purposely misdiagnose patients.
In worst case scenarios, as is in the video shown here, they tell people they have long term, life threatening diseases that will require expensive treatments.
If patients realize this is happening, they can switch doctors and report the original physician to the authorities for committing fraud.
The only way to know is to get second and sometimes third opinions.
Doing this can save a great deal of heartbreak and help people to avoid financial hardship.
Requiring Too Many Office Visits
You should not have to see your doctor every time you need a referral or a prescription, especially once your doctor knows your situation well
Doctors can boost their incomes significantly simply by requiring you to physically show up in order to get the paperwork you may need.
You also should not have to visit a doctor before, during and after every procedure.
One pain specialist I know requires people to come in for an office visit before he gives you a steroid shot and then again about a month afterwards. This requirement brings in three times his normal specialist fee. However, he personally only sees you for the procedure. His PA meets with you the other two times!
If you’re lucky, your insurance pays it all, but if not, you are. I know one woman who went to see the PA and was asked to provide a urine sample. She had to pay $700 out of pocket, even though she did have insurance!
Doctors who keep finding excuses for you to consistently return are working in their best financial interests, not in yours!
If yours is doing this, get a different doctor! Doing so will save you a great deal of money.
Prescribing Overly Expensive Medications
There are many products on the market that can be used to treat health problems. A caring doctor will always prescribe medications that will do the best job at the lowest cost to you.
If your doctor is not doing this, it is likely because he is getting kickbacks from drug companies for pushing their products.
I once was given a prescription for a medication that would have cost more than $200 only to learn that I could have bought the same product across the counter at my local pharmacy for $6.
You should always ask if there is a less costly alternative, and you should always carry a copy of your health insurer’s formulary with you to see if they cover a medication and what the cost might be.
An ethical doctor will always be willing to work with you on this issue. If he’s not, find another doctor!
Selling Products On Site
If your doctor starts selling vitamins or health aids out of his office, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. This is a sure sign that your physician is unethical and may be doing other things to “up” his income by doing other similar types of things.
Doctors who do this sort of thing make patients feel as though they must purchase them because they don’t want their doctor to be upset, but when physicians do this, they are manipulating patients into purchasing items they may not want or really need at prices that are far more than if they bought them elsewhere.
Recommending Their Own Medical Facilities
In recent years many doctors have started opening their own surgery and physical therapy centers.
The problem with this is that it presents a conflict of interest, because if they refer patients to their own facilities, especially without disclosing that they own them, patients
- may not receive the best level of care,
- are not being given a choice as to where they’d like to receive services or
- have the ability to research quality and costs before going to them.
Another way doctors earn more is to double charge or charge for services that were never given.
In the first instance, you may only see your doctor for one office visit, but he sends bills to your insurance company that show you visited twice!
Your insurer pays the bill, but eventually your coverage cost goes up as a result.
In the second instance, a doctor or supplier charges for services or equipment that never were given. This happens often in nursing homes, especially when the patients have dementia and nobody to check their paperwork.
Years ago my mother was charged for a health aid that was never given to her. I caught the error and reported it. The supplier did this twice for a charge of $3,000. In the end, all he had to pay back was half of that amount, even though none of it was legitimate.
To avoid having these types of problems, always check any bills and Explanation of Benefits when they aer sent to you. If you find a discrepancy, report it immediately to your insurer.
In the long term, doing this will save you and other patients a good deal of money.
While there clearly are doctors who do these types of things, they do not represent the majority of those who work hard to help patients every day.
Nonetheless, patients need to pay attention to what is going on and do whatever they can to protect their financial interests because the temptations for doctors to improve their bottom lines are present every day.
Our doctors are the people who care for us and will be there for us when emergencies arise, but we need to be able to trust them.
It is up to you to decide who you want caring for you, and now you have the tools that will help you to choose a physician who puts your needs before his own.
Have any of your doctors done the things mentioned in this article?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle