It’s safe to say we’ve all been in at least one situation where we didn’t know whether or not a business’ services or motives were legitimate. It’s particularly hard to discern whether or not a service or product is legit when we’re unfamiliar with the specific industry. Oftentimes, we trust the car salesman because it’s their job -- they know what they’re talking about...right?
Well, unfortunately, the same goes for a primary care office. Even though it’s ingrained in us to trust our doctors -- especially regarding our health -- it’s worth familiarizing ourselves with ways primary care offices can actually rip patients off. Sounds harsh, but you should be receiving the best healthcare at your convenience and at a decent cost.
So it’s worth it to be mindful of these things:
Six Rip Offs at a Primary Care Office
#1: Test Results
When it comes to testing, patients obviously want to know their results -- good or bad. When a doctor or healthcare provider tells a patient they’re required to come into their office for the results, it’s likely the patient won’t think twice about this. Doctors should discuss test results with their patients. The fact of the matter is, test results don’t always have to be discussed in person, in the office. In this case, it’s likely doctors are seeking out another copay and an extra chance to charge you or your insurance, which means more money out of the pocket. When really, test results can be reviewed via phone or electronically.
Some offices, however, follow a direct primary care model, where visits don’t cost anything. A monthly subscription covers all the visits you need. There’s no need to worry about sneaky charges popping up because the doctors’ main concerns are about you and your health -- not raking in a little extra cash out of each visit.
#2: Visits With No Doctor
Be mindful of the bait-and-switch technique used to lure patients in. Here’s how it works: patients think they have an appointment with their doctor, only to be let down by a full appointment with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. This doesn’t go to say that nurses and PAs don’t know how to treat and handle patients, but it’s disappointing for a patient to carve time out of their day for an appointment with who they thought would be their doctor, and pay the same fee, too.
#3: Do You Really Need That Test?
It’s disheartening to think that primary care offices could ever perform unnecessary tests and procedures just for the money, but several offices will, in fact, perform unproven screening tests simply for gain. How can you know which unnecessary tests fall into this category? Yearly EKGs on low-risk patients or a urinalysis at physical examinations are just a couple examples. In other cases, some patients are charged for every last thing ranging from phlebotomy and cryotherapy, to strep tests and injections.
While these procedures won’t cost that much for the office itself to perform, your bill will be a whole different story.
#4: One Thing at a Time
Most doctors sought out a career in medicine because they genuinely want to help others. This comes with addressing a patient’s problems and concerns, and helping them to better understand issues regarding their health. This should be first priority -- not how much money an office visit will lend itself to. Yet, there are doctors who seem to have these two items of business in the reverse order.
Doctors can only bill so much per visit, so believe it or not, some will only address one problem at a patient’s visit or will refuse to discuss other issues during a yearly physical. It makes sense -- once a doctor has hit their max, there’s really no reason to discuss new issues as it won’t benefit the doctor, financially. In order to discuss another issue, these types of doctors will require a follow up appointment. That’s where it’s completely skewed, however.
You have to be reasonable, of course, but if you find yourself with a doctor who refuses to disclose certain information about concerns you may have, then it’s clear your doctor isn’t doing their job for the right reasons.
Again, consider visiting a direct primary care doctor’s office where individual visits don’t cost a thing. They are specifically designed to treat patients differently than the average healthcare model allowing you to have no concerns about getting ripped off. You won’t have to feel like you’re walking on eggshells if you bring up an additional issue or concern with your family physician.
#5: Family Practice or Hospital?
In this industry, most doctors are employed by hospitals, which financially benefits just about everyone but you. Hospitals hire doctors because this guarantees that they get all the referrals for procedures, surgeries, labs, and x-rays. Additionally, family practice offices now fall under the hospital umbrella, meaning, insurance companies and the government can charge a “facility fee”.
This is yet another charge that can stack up, so be mindful because eventually, it will come straight from your pocket due to large deductible plans.
#6: Insurance Doesn’t Cover Everything
Speaking of high deductible plans, don’t be surprised if the bill is not paid by your insurance company, but rather, you. This isn’t the office’s fault, however. Under the large deductible plans, only a physical is covered. Additional visits are on your dime. While it would be nice to assume your healthcare is being “covered”, there’s a good chance it’s not.
Opt for Direct Primary Care
The main goal of highlighting these rip-offs is not to scare you, but inform you. Healthcare is important for you and your loved ones, but no family should have to encounter rip offs as mentioned. A true family practice should start and end with the patient -- the patient’s needs, test results, concerns, and questions.
Here at Elevated Health in Huntington Beach, California, we strive to meet patients’ needs and offer walk-in visits at any time within a patient’s convenience. With a membership, you don’t have to worry about sneaky fees that some doctors or insurance companies are capable of slipping in. Plus, you’ll feel valued knowing that the doctors at Elevated Health will see you at your earliest convenience, rather than scheduling you out months in advance to the point of not making you feel like a priority. Join the community at Elevated Health to work with a transparent team that puts you and your family first.
About the Author
Matthew Abinante is a board-certified family physician providing direct primary care to patients of all ages. Offering excellent care, diagnosis, and techniques, he continually participates in educational opportunities to best serve his patients. Working in Huntington Beach, he analyzes common aches and pains, proposes innovative treatment plans, and provides specialized services for each individual patient.
After excelling for years, Matthew received his DO and MPH from Touro University in Vallejo, CA. Matthew completed his residency training at PIH Health Hospital in Downey, CA, where he became a board-certified and trusted family physician who values patient-doctor relationships and clear communication.