The price of that CT scan
A study published today says that a lot of people are getting advanced medical scans -- half of patients ages 18 to 34 (!) had one in the last year. The scans can be costly to the health care system. They expose people to radiation, in some case levels that could increase their cancer risk. And very few of the tests have been scientifically proven to improve health or help people live longer.
And yet, when the doctor says you need a CT of your abdomen to check out the pain you've been having, you get one. The doctor ordered it, so it must have value, right? It won't cost you much money if you have decent insurance. And who thinks of cancer risk when sent for one little test?
Some doctors I spoke to yesterday just hope we will think about these questions next time our physician orders a radiologic test -- a nuclear stress test, a CT of your heart, an X-ray of your spine. It's a no-brainer when you break your arm or you have pneumonia or it's time for your annual mammogram. Those tests are needed. Others may not be.
And a word on price. Georgetown health economist Jean Mitchell pointed out something I had never considered. "This is the only industry where nobody knows the price" for services, she said of the medical field. "There's no price list. They only ask you what health insurance you have. People have no idea (of the cost) and they get the bill later.
"If patients had to pay more out of pocket, you'd see them saying ... 'Well I don't need them.'"