Would My Blood Test Still Cost $1,132 if the U.S. Had a Public Health Option?
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Christian Delbert
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I recently went for a routine blood test as part of my yearly physical and went back to the same lab I had been going to for the same test the last few years. This time however, after handing over my insurance card, I was told they were no longer an "in-network provider" for my health insurance carrier (my carrier is one of the biggest in the country). At first, I didn't care since my insurance plan allows me to see any provider, in-network or not. The difference is in the co-pay. No co-pay for the blood test with an in-network provider, a co-pay for out of network.
Given that the temperature outside was around 4F (-15.6C) with -10F (-23.3C) wind chills I was inclined to stay where I was and fork over what I thought would be a $25 or $50 co-pay. I figured that in the time it took to put on my sweater, scarf, coat, hat, gloves and warm up the car, I could stay where I was and just be done with it.
So I asked the administrator what the co-pay would be. She said she couldn't tell me since she didn't have my specific plan information, but she could tell me the cost of the blood test and the co-pay would probably be in the 20-30% range. I asked her to look it up since I had decided to stay and get it over with. Until she told me the cost of the blood test: $1,132.
Needless to say, I had no problem putting on my sweater, hat, gloves and scarf and braving the wind chills to drive to an in-network lab to pay nothing.
Plenty of Americans have stories similar to mine of mind-boggling healthcare expenses and bureaucracy. It's one of Obamacare's biggest failures – one that will never be fixed as long as Obamacare remains in it's present form – and it has nothing to do with website glitches.
Aside from the very real and obvious problems that Obamacare will never sign up anywhere near the number of young, healthy uninsured Americans needed to make the system viable, Obamacare does nothing to address the root problem in healthcare: costs, which have a domino affect on everything.
A $1,132 blood test is insane. Obamacare does nothing and will do nothing to address that, which means the obscenely high health insurance premiums will remain, and the uninsured still won't be able to afford coverage. If you don't qualify for substantial subsidies, which most people don't, premiums for even the lowest tier plans for a single person making over $45,000 are around $200 to $300 a month. Even worse, they come with high deductibles of $6,000, 40% co-pays and limited access to what doctors they can see.
Even though my blood test in the end cost me nothing, the insurance company will still get a bill from the lab for something along the lines of $1,132, which it will pay. That cost will be passed on to everyone else in the form of insurance premiums that will be high enough to cover the cost of the test AND make a profit for the insurance company.
Obamacare, even in concept, was certain to be a failure. The better option would have been a government run, public option similar to the NHS in the United Kingdom or Canada's system. Democrats had the votes to pass a public option, but they didn't because their leadership, namely Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, decided it was better not to embarrass Obama, who had already decided to capitulate to the health insurance lobby and drop the public option.
The public option would have offered healthcare coverage and access for a fraction of what private insurance companies charge because the government isn't in the business of making a profit. The US would basically have Medicare-for-all type coverage. Consider that General Motors has stated that the health insurance premiums they pay for their employees add over $1,500 to the cost of every car, and you start to see the impact lower healthcare costs and a public option would have on the overall economy.