This time about a year ago, you’d have found me in an aircast and crutches…
I broke a bone in my foot trail running, not fun. In fact, I’d broken the exact same bone on the same trail a year earlier and been in a similar contraption at that time. So, I had a feel for what aircasts or “cam-walkers” should cost. Which is what led to the following email to the doctor’s office manager:
I am a patient of Dr. XXXXX’s, who came in for a first visit two months ago and was fitted for an Aircast that day. Your billing system was down, so I did not see the invoice until my next visit a month later.
At that time I realized your office charged me $480 for the Aircast. This struck me as odd, since I had broken the same bone in my other foot a year earlier and a different doctor charged me about $100 for an aircast for my other foot.
I mentioned to the woman processing my payment that it was available elsewhere and online for $80-$100 and she told me the those prices were not for the model I was given. When I returned home, I researched the specific model I was provided by your office (Aircast FP Walker 01F-L) and found that very same model was indeed being sold all over the internet for between $75 and $100.
Below are just a few of the links to major retailers demonstrating this fact, there are dozens more:
With the exception of this incident, the service I have received from Dr XXXX and the entire office has been exceptional and fairly priced.
Charging 600% of fair market price for the Aircast, though, is so out of sync with everything else I have experienced with your office, I am wondering if the price of the Aircast may have been entered into your system incorrectly?
I am happy to pay a bit more for the convenience of getting it at your office, instead of buying it online and having it overnighted. I could see a mark-up to even $150 as being reasonable (even though I paid less than $100 for my last one), because your service has been so good.
But, 6 TIMES the going rate is what most people would call opportunistic pricing.
If I have missed something, please do let me know where I have gone astray. If not, as I mentioned, I have had such a wonderful experience with every other aspect of your office, I trust we can resolve this “system error” quickly and discretely with an adjustment and refund.
Thanks so much for your kind and prompt attention.
I then waited.
11 days passed with no reply.
So, I emailed again, referencing the above email, and got this reply…
I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. Thanks for forwarding the info to me.
Were you reimbursed by your insurance company? Camwalkers are recognized and reimbursed by all insurance carriers.
I would be more than happy to discount your bill if your insurance company fails to pay. But keep in mind, insurances might deny based on “no out of network benefits” or “medical equipment not covered on your policy”. However, it wouldn’t be based on our fees.
(I’ve never come across an Orthopaedic Surgeon in NYC or Hospital that charged $100 for a camwalker).
Please keep in mind, Medical Facilities come up with fees based on a national database and demographic area.
If you would like to discuss further please call me @ xxx-xxx-xxxx or email.
I’ll try and resolve this matter by next week.
I was pretty bothered by the response.
Whether I was reimbursed or not wasn’t the issue (I wasn’t, btw). Nor was whether other doc’s charged what they charged (and as I noted, I paid another one about $90 for a similar product a year earlier). The price of the device shouldn’t be based on who’s selling it to you.
This was about their deliberate decision to charge a patient 5-600% of the going retail rate for an orthopedic device while that patient is in a state of immediate pain, and never let that patient know they had the option of buying the same exact thing online (or getting it from a local supplier, pharmacy or another doc) for a small fraction of the price.
It was about telling me, when I first brought the discrepancy to their attention, that I’d made a mistake on the model. Then backpedaling when I showed them it was the identical model and essentially saying…
“yup, we’re really doing what you’re saying…but so is everyone else, got a problem with that?”
The day I received the reply, I really wanted to mix it up, but I didn’t.
Because this wasn’t any ordinary consumer transaction. I was placed in the very awkward situation of not wanting to burn my relationship with the doctor, because the care he’d personally been providing was excellent. I didn’t know how much more care I’d need from him and I didn’t want to inject bad energy into that element of the relationship.
So, I wrote this simple reply…
Thanks for your reply. I have no out of network benefits, so neither the visit or camwalker are covered. So, yes, I would appreciate an adjustment.
Nothing. Not a word. End of transaction.
So, I’m wondering, is what the doc and their office did okay?
- Is it ethical?
- Is it slimy?
- Is it even…predatory?
- And, with social media now giving everyone a voice…is it just plain bad business?
- Or, am I just an oversensitive wuss (entirely possible, lol)?
What do YOU think?
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