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    Posted February 22, 2013 by
    Maryville, Tennessee
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Bitter pill: The cost of health care in the U.S.

    And Who Issues the Bill?

    East Tennessee Medical Group, a doctors’ facility, was recently purchased by Blount Memorial Hospital. The facility remains open operates pretty much as in the past. However, various billing functions are now done by Blount Memorial, including laboratory tests. The cost of these tests has increased by factors up to at least 11, although the services remain the same.
    I complained to the supervisor of the billing department at Blount Memorial. The justification she offered was:
    1. I could expect to pay “a little” more because the tests were no longer being done by a doctors’ facility. (This was followed by a discussion using magical words, like “inside” and “outside” facilities which made little sense to me.)
    2. Blount Memorial bills for the maximum benefit it can get.
    3. Compared with other similar facilities in the area, Blount Memorial was billing in the “medium” range.
    4. I should not worry because probably my insurance would pick up the increased costs.
    In comparing the charges made before and after East Tennessee Medical was purchased by Blount Memorial, Blount Memorial charges three times as much for venipuncture, almost 11 times as much for a comprehensive metabolic, almost four times as much for an A1C test, and a little more that five times as much for a CBC test. The only difference is who issues the bill. Adding insult to injury, our insurer was willing pay Blount Memorial nearly four times as much as it paid to East Tennessee Medical for venipuncture, over 12 times as much for a comprehensive metabolic, over four times as much for A1C test, and six times as much for a CBC. If East Tennessee Medical was willing to accept the much lower payments (which probably reflect the true value of the tests) why does my insurer pay such exorbitant amounts to Blount Memorial? Although I was supposed to be soothed by believing my insurance company would absorb the extravagant billing, in fact it ended up in my deductible charges and eventually what I pay for insurance.
    Needing a picture for this ireport I tried to snap a picture of the hospital entry sign from their parking lot. A security guard was immediately dispatched from inside the hospital. He explained pictures were not allowed because the hospital was concerned about their “inappropriate’ use. I wonder what skeletons lay in the hospital!

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