In a strange and ironic twist of fate, doctors and hospitals are upset about paying unusually high prices for supplies they use every day.
If you’ve ever been in a hospital and have been charged $5 for an aspirin or $50 for a bandage when paying out of pocket, here’s a news story that may make you chuckle a bit. On the other hand, if you have a good relationship with your local family practitioner or dentist, you may feel a tinge of remorse for them.
According to an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times this week, doctors and hospitals are upset about unusually high prices for supplies they use every day. Of course, items like masks and gloves are typically inexpensive and are easy to access for medical institutions, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created a high demand and drove prices to previously unthinkable levels.
In an example used in the LA Times story, nitrile gloves (the disposable sterile gloves that medical professionals wear) cost less than $2.50 for a package of 100 pre-2020, but now cost $30 or more for the same size package. Masks and other supplies have undergone similar increases. As you might imagine, this adds up for hospitals and busy doctors’ offices and is cutting into their bottom line. That’s not to mention that doctors are able to see less patients these days because of social distancing and the time it takes for doctors and nurses to constantly disinfect themselves, which is also cutting into their bottom line.
Matchup Of The Year: Doctors vs. Health Insurance Companies
In what may be a historic development, the medical industry says that they don’t want to pass the costs directly to their patients. Instead, they say health insurance companies should pay for the extra costs (of course, this means that eventually these costs will be passed on to insured patients, but nobody is mentioning that).
Doctors in California believe in this idea so much that the California Medical Association, which is a statewide doctor’s organization, has sponsored a bill in the California state legislature that says that insurance companies should not only pay for the now-pricey personal protective equipment (PPE), but other pandemic-related expenses such as soap and other disinfectant, lost time, and even the protective fiberglass that separates office workers from patients.
“People are literally saying ‘well, maybe my knee doesn’t hurt that bad…’ and the insurance companies are turning record profits as a result”
The California Medical Association says that insurance companies have turned record profits throughout the last year, because outside of COVID-related issues, people have simply stayed inside instead of tending to non-life threatening medical issues, especially during the early months of the pandemic. In the meantime, few, if any health insurance companies have lowered their premiums in response, despite the reduced traffic. People are literally saying “well, maybe my knee doesn’t hurt that bad; I’ll take an Ibuprofen” and the insurance companies are turning record profits as a result. Since many of America’s largest insurers are publicly traded on the stock market, their profit information is only a Google search away- in recent quarters, major insurers have enjoyed not just above-average, but record profits.
A similar legal challenge that attempted to make medicaid and medicare foot doctors’ pandemic expenses bill has already failed on the federal level, but California isn’t the only state with active legislation like this. Washington state has already passed a law that creates a standard insurance charge for every medical visit that will help defray pandemic-related expenses. In addition, it’s likely that lobbyists and lawmakers in other states are watching the outcome of the California bill before writing their own pandemic expense bills. Also, the federal government has taken steps to help people some of the out-of-control medical costs at hospitals and doctors offices.
What Are Health Insurance Providers Saying About This?
If you thought that health insurance companies would not be going out quietly, you’re absolutely right. They’ve fiercely opposed these laws, saying that it’s not usually their responsibility to pay for these types of expenses. In addition, they say that many private doctor’s offices have already received federal help for their pandemic-related expenses. And this is true; in California, billions of dollars were dispersed to help doctors and dentists with pandemic-related expenses. Only time will tell about the outcome of this legislative battle.
How to Lower Your Health Insurance Costs
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