We all know that some doctors’ fees are excessive. I have blogged about this myself citing a neurosurgeon’s $117,000 charge for assisting on a case.
We also know that doctor bashing is a popular sport right now.
In an otherwise reasonable article about high-deductible health insurance on Vox.com, reporter Sarah Kliff’s second paragraph read as follows:
The bolded text was hyperlinked to a Washington Post piece about a study that showed wide variations in hospital charges for appendectomies in California. The study was not about physician fees. No matter how difficult the case was, no surgeon would ever have been paid $186,955 for performing an appendectomy.
Yesterday, I twice asked Ms. Kliff to please correct this grossly misleading paragraph. She acknowledged my request that evening, but as of 9 AM today, nothing had been changed.
Even if Ms. Kliff had correctly identified the hospitals as the culprits, using appendectomy as an example of why patients should shop for the lowest prices was a poor choice.
Nearly every patient with appendicitis does not know he has it until he has gone to an emergency room, seen an ED physician, and had some tests. I doubt most people in this situation would A) ask how much it’s going to cost to have an appendectomy and B) decide to go to another hospital for care. The fact is, hospitals are so secretive about their charges that a patient would be unable to comparison shop especially if the emergency department visit occurred outside of normal working hours.
Even trying to find out the charges for elective surgery remains difficult in 2015.
Physicians—particularly surgeons—have taken a lot of heat recently. We don’t need articles like this to inflame patients (and journalists) even more than they already are.
ADDENDUM 9:45 AM 10/15/15
The article was just changed. The bolded mistaken passage was corrected, but the next sentence (underlined in red) remains the same. Still blaming those "really expensive doctors."