One defendant billed $30,000 for a Caesarean birth, and another raised his fee for seeing a critically ill patient in a hospital to $9,000 in 2008 from $500 the year before, the insurer alleges in the suits. The Caesarean price was more than 10 times the in-network amount Aetna quotes on its website.
Aetna Inc. (AET) is suing six New Jersey doctors over medical bills it calls “unconscionable,” including $56,980 for a bedside consultation and $59,490 for an ultrasound that typically costs $74.
Hannallah billed Aetna $56,980 last July for a consultation with a patient who wasn’t critically ill, a hospital visit that typically takes 25 minutes, according to the suit.
In April 2010, Aetna said, Hannallah asked for $54,600 for a heart catheterization, up from $5,500 for the same procedure in 2007.
For an electrocardiogram, Aetna said it paid him $5,500 in 2010, up from $800 in 2008.
Doctors can bill at whatever they want. What’s unconscionable, outrageous and should be criminally illegal is failing to disclose these fees up front and charging on a differential basis predicated solely on how one pays.
This is classic anti-competitive behavior and in most industries is flatly unlawful.
If you want to know why we will not fix health care in this country, it’s right there in your face. Until this practice is outlawed and those who do it go to prison there will be no solution.
Ending this practice is one of the lynchpins of the reform proposal I put forward when health care was under debate, and this series of lawsuits shows why in big, bold letters.
Until the time comes that we ditch the medical monopolist cults and start jailing their practitioners I have a modest suggestion: If you cut a doctor’s lawn, charge him $50,000 – for the same job that’s $50 for the guy next door.
After all, if they can do it, why can’t you?