Colton man says patients should be better informed of medical costs
Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 7:56 am

To the Editor:

I recently entered Canton-Potsdam Hospital through the general entrance seeking medical advice for a severe cough. I made the decision to visit the hospital after reading on its website that it offered “cost-effective care” and that patients were encouraged to be involved in their care and to ask questions.

During my treatment, I was impressed by the professionalism and cordiality of the hospital staff, which were exemplary. But I am disappointed that the costs associated with my visit were not made clear to me at the outset.

My bill of over a thousand dollars includes an emergency department charge of $282. In addition, there is a ten percent tax levied by the state on all hospital patients. (Alas! the cupidity of the political elite knows no limits, and does not scruple to violate even the threshold of the sick room.)

I have also received a separate bill from North Star Emergency Services for physician services. These three charges suggest a minimum cost of nearly $400 for any sort of treatment. Yet when I asked before being admitted how much I could expect to pay, I was told that my question could not be answered.

My bill also includes charges for five blood tests and an x ray. In the end, I was prescribed a Z-pack for a case of acute bronchitis.

I found out later that an after-hours clinic affiliated with the hospital exists in Canton, at which I could have received a prescription at a much lower cost. Why were neither the eventual costs of my visit to the hospital nor the existence of the after-hours clinic communicated to me initially? Must health care be forever shrouded in a veil of monetary mystery?

Perhaps I should have been more insistent in my inquiry about costs but I was too disoriented by my illness to ask a series of questions in an attempt to obtain information that was not forthcoming.

Point 10 of the state Patients’ Bill of Rights states that one has the right “to receive all information that you need to give informed consent for any proposed procedure and treatment.” I could not give informed consent because I was not informed of the likely cost of the hospital visit.

The hospital should revise its webpage to give prospective patients a clear idea of the costs they will incur. A price list, and not vague language about cost-effective care, would be a good place to start. Or at least a “caveat emptor” notice over the hospital entrance.

Kevin Beary,