Beyond the ACA: Healthcare legal fights to watch in 2020

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/beyond-the-aca-healthcare-legal-fights-to-watch-in-2020/569793/

All eyes were on the legal drama over the Affordable Care Act as 2019 drew to a close — and while that case remains a focus for this year — a lot more is also at stake.

Payers and providers are fiercely contesting a price transparency push from the Trump administration that would force privately negotiated rates out into the open. The administration is also being challenged over regulations regarding risk corridor payments to payers and the expansion of association health plans.

Antitrust concerns are also front and center, as payers clash over exclusive broker policies in Florida.

As policy debates rage on this year through presidential debates and on Capitol Hill, courthouses will also be a key battleground for the industry in 2020.  Below are the big cases to watch.

ACA and the high court

The most consequential case still making its way through the court system is the challenge to the Affordable Care Act. At the end of last year, an appeals court notched a win for the red states fighting the law by declaring the individual mandate was no longer constitutional after the penalty was zeroed out by a Republican-controlled Congress.

The three-judge panel, however, stopped short of declaring the entire ACA void, instead asking the lower court that made the argument that the rest of the law is not severable from the individual mandate to revisit and clarify its ruling.

Supporters of the ACA are trying to speed up what is almost certainly the next major step for the court case by petitioning the Supreme Court on Friday to hear the case before the November presidential election.

“States, health insurers, and millions of Americans rely on those provisions when making important — indeed, life-changing — decisions. The remand proceedings contemplated by the panel majority would only prolong and exacerbate the uncertainty already caused by this litigation,” according to the Jan. 3 petition filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a coalition of 19 other states and D.C.

Five justices are needed to approve the suggested expedited timeline while four are needed to agree to hear the case at all. More will be clear in the next couple of months as justices make their decisions. The ultimate decision — whether it comes in months or years — will have huge ramifications across the healthcare landscape.

Price transparency pushback

The legal clash between hospitals and the administration over forcing providers to reveal negotiated rates is set to heat up quickly in the new year.

The federal judge overseeing the case recently released a timeline for how it is expected to proceed in the coming months. Hospitals are seeking a swift ruling and summary judgment. HHS faces a Feb. 4 deadline to file its opposition motion to the summary judgment, while deadlines for motions extend through March 10.

“That is an extremely accelerated schedule,” James Burns, a partner at Akerman, told Healthcare Dive. “My strong suspicion is that we’ll get a ruling from the judge late spring or earlier summer at the latest, which is obviously all before the election.”

Hospital groups including the American Hospital Association and health systems have alleged that the administration’s push to force negotiated rates out into the open exceeds the government’s authority and violates the First Amendment because it compels hospitals to reveal confidential and proprietary information. Legal experts say the principal argument will center around whether the government exceeded its authority, not the First Amendment.

Risk corridor payments

On last month’s Supreme Court docket was a case regarding an ACA risk adjustment program. At issue are $12 billion in payments insurers say they are owed from losses on state exchanges.

Early participants in the marketplaces were hit hard in some cases as they attempted to adjust to people gaining coverage under the ACA. A few nonprofit co-ops were driven to close when CMS declared the program had to be budget neutral and therefore only about one-eighth of the expected risk corridor amount could be paid out.

A number of justices seemed to lean toward ruling in favor of the insurers during arguments in front of the high court, Tim Jost, health law expert and professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University School of Law, told Healthcare Dive​. “Only a couple of the justices that spoke seemed inclined to support the government, but we’ll see what happens there,” he said.

If the payers do prevail, there’s still the question of exactly how much they are owed and how the money will be distributed. It could ultimately affect medical loss ratio rebates or premiums down the road, he said.

CSR fight in court this week

The legal fight over canceled payments to insurers​ under the ACA drags on as oral arguments begin this week in a federal appeals court.

A number of insurers including Maine Community Health Options and Sanford Health claim they’re owed millions in cost-sharing reduction payments that the government failed to pay out after the Trump administration said Congress failed to appropriate the funds. The payments were intended to repay insurers for lowering the cost of care to make coverage affordable for those with low incomes.

Health Options and Sanford both won in the lower courts after judges ruled they were entitled to the unpaid CSR payments. The cases have been consolidated within the appeals court and oral arguments start Thursday.

A ruling in favor of insurers in the risk corridor case could be a good sign for their fight to be reimbursed for CSRs as well, Jost said.

Oscar antitrust argument

Health insurer Oscar has alleged that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida is enforcing a broker policy that is impeding Oscar’s ability to sell individual exchange plans and undermines competition in Florida.

The key question in this case is whether Florida Blue, a dominant insurer in the sunshine state, can lawfully bar independent brokers from working with other carriers like Oscar by threatening to cut off their ability to sell all other Florida Blue plans if they sell Oscar’s individual plans.

A lower court ruled against Oscar and found that such arrangements are shielded from antitrust scrutiny. A federal law excludes the “business of insurance” from antitrust scrutiny in some cases, legal experts say this case shouldn’t be exempt from antitrust enforcement.

A group of 10 antitrust scholars called the ruling “dangerous” and “plainly incorrect,” in an amicus brief Dec. 23 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th District.

“The practice at issue here — forming exclusive deals with industry gatekeepers to box out potential entry by competitors — is a quotidian business strategy that appears across many industries and raises well-recognized antitrust concerns,” according to the amicus brief.

Oscar alleges that consumers are harmed if brokers are barred from discussing other plan options outside Florida Blue.

The Department of Justice also intends to file an amicus brief, according to a recent filing in the appeals case.

Association, short-term health plans

The federal court of appeals in D.C. heard arguments late last year to review a judge’s decision in March 2019 declaring association health plans an “end-run” around the ACA. AHPs are offered by business or professional associations and aren’t bound by ACA requirements protecting pre-existing conditions and mandating essential benefits.

U.S. District Judge John Bates had strong language in March for the Trump administration, which is being challenged for loosening restrictions on what groups can offer AHPs — and therefore expanding their presence in the marketplace.

The D.C. appeals court is expected to rule on the case in the coming months. Jost’s take from the oral arguments is that the court seem inclined to reverse Bates’ decision, though he warned the outcome is not certain. “It’s a technical case that really has more to do with interpreting ERISA than the Affordable Care Act, though both are relevant,” he said.

A similar challenge has risen on short-term health plans, which were originally meant as stopgap coverage but have been expanded by the Trump administration to offer up to three years worth of coverage.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled in favor of the administration in July, saying the plans did not undermine the ACA. The plaintiffs, including the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and AIDS United, quickly appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C.

Briefs are due this month and argument is likely in the spring, Jost said.

If AHPs and short-term plans are allowed to continue as the Trump administration has pushed for, it presents a concern for the viability of ACA risk pools. Consumer warnings against short-term plans, however, may be working, he said.

“There’s been a lot of publicity about how risky these plans are and I think they probably have not been achieving the same market strength they were hoping for,” he said.

 

 

 

Despite provider claims, hospital M&A not associated with improved care, NEJM finds

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/despite-provider-claims-hospital-ma-not-associated-with-improved-care-ne/569671/

Dive Brief:

  • Hospital consolidation is associated with poorer patient experiences and doesn’t improve care, according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, refuting a common provider justification for rampant mergers and acquisitions.
  • The study funded by HHS’ health quality research division, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found that acquired hospitals saw moderately worse patient experience, along with no change in 30-day mortality or readmission rates. ​Acquired hospitals did improve slightly in clinical process, though that can’t be directly chalked up to the results of an acquisition, researchers found.
  • It’s further evidence that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to hospitals, and adds onto a heap of previous studies showing provider mergers lead to higher prices for commercially insured patients.

Dive Insight:

Hospitals continue to turn to M&A to navigate tricky industry headwinds, including lowering reimbursement and flatlining admissions as patients increasingly turn to alternate, cheaper sites of care. Provider trade associations maintain consolidation lowers costs and improves operations, which trickles down to better care for patients.

Though volume of deals has ebbed and flowed, hospital M&A overall has steadily increased over the past decade. The hospital sector in 2018 saw 90 deals, according to consultancy Kaufman Hall, up 80% from just 50 such transactions in 2009.

Thursday’s study analyzed CMS data on hospital quality and Medicare claims from 2007 through 2016 and data on hospital M&A from 2009 to 2013 to look at hospital performance before and after acquisition, compared with a control group that didn’t see a change in ownership.

American Hospital Association General Counsel Melinda Hatton took aim at the study’s methods to refute its findings, especially its reliance on a common measure of patient experience called HCAHPS.

“Using data collected from patients to make claims about quality fails to recognize that it is often incomplete, as patients are not required to and do not always respond comprehensively,” Hatton told Healthcare Dive in a statement. “The survey does not capture information on the critical aspects of care as it is delivered today.”

The results contradict a widely decried AHA-funded study last year conducted by Charles River Associates that found consolidation improves quality and lowers revenue per admission in the first year prior to integration. The research came quickly under fire by academics and patient advocates over potential cherrypicked results.

A spate of previous studies found hospital tie-ups raise the price tag of care on payers and patients. Congressional advisory group MedPAC found both vertical and horizontal provider consolidation are correlated with higher healthcare costs, the brunt of which is often borne by consumers in the form of higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

A 2018 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found prices rose 6% after hospitals were acquired, partially due to limiting market competition. Groups like the left-leaning Center for American Progress have called for increased scrutiny from antitrust regulators as a result, but — despite snowballing M&A — there’s been little change in antitrust regulation since the 1980s. The Federal Trade Commission won several challenges to hospital consolidation in the 2010s, but the agency only contests 2% to 3% of mergers annually, according to MedPAC analysts.

Providers, like most actors across the healthcare ecosystem, are increasingly under fire for high prices and predatory billing practices. President Donald Trump’s administration finalized a rule late last year that would force hospitals to reveal secret negotiated rates with insurers, relying on the assumption that transparency would shame both actors into lowering prices.

A cadre of provider groups led by the AHA sued HHS over the regulation, arguing it violates the First Amendment and would place undue burden on hospitals, while potentially stifling competition. The lawsuit is currently being reviewed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

 

 

 

The Chart that Could Undo the US Healthcare System

https://fee.org/articles/the-chart-that-could-undo-the-us-healthcare-system/

Image result for The Chart that Could Undo the US Healthcare System

Skyrocketing costs are being driven by bureaucracy.

This chart looks remarkably similar to a chart that tracks the growth of the administrative class in higher education. And that’s no accident. As the physician who shared the chart writes:

[The chart] outlines the growth of administrators in healthcare compared to physicians over the last forty years. And, it includes an overlay of America’s healthcare spending over that same time. Take a look at the yellow color. A picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?

You see, when you have that much administration, what you really have is a bunch of meetings. Lots of folks carrying their coffee from place to place. They are meeting about more policies, more protocols to satisfy government-created nonsense. But, this type of thing in healthcare isn’t fixing things. It’s not moving the needle.

What moves things is innovation.

Innovation, indeed. But it’s not easy to innovate in stagnant, hyper-regulated, captured sectors.

In Tyler Cowen’s 2011 book the Great Stagnation, he argued that the areas that were stagnating the most are education, healthcare, and government. Writing about Cowen’s book in his Wall Street Journal blog, Kelly Evans says:

A particular challenge we confront is that our progress as a society — chiefly, in extending and improving lives — is now at a point in which it appears to be undercutting our potential for further advancement. Part of this, Mr. Cowen observes, stems from well-meaning efforts to do more with education, government, and health care that instead seem to have backfired and left us with noncompetitive institutions closer to failing us than to serving us well.

With respect to healthcare, this chart gives us an indication of why these efforts are backfiring: The more an industry becomes like a regulated utility, the more administrators are required to enforce the regulations and administer the programs. And they, as well as the programs they administer, are expensive. All manner of distortions follow, and the costs of healthcare go up proportionally.

There also seems to be perverse incentives associated with subsidy: The more resources you dump in, the more expensive that industry becomes. You might shift the costs around on unsuspecting groups (like taxpayers), but in almost every case we see premium hikes and tuition increases in both of these industries, despite (or rather because of) the truckloads of federal largesse.

But they will have to stop at some point — one way or the other.

The US healthcare system has become something of a Frankenstein monster, with pieces stitched together ad hoc by regulators and special interests. The ACA seems to have ignored most of what really needed fixing and doubled down on the worst aspects of our system. Price transparency, affordability, innovation and competitive entrepreneurship have all gotten worse, not better. And the beast has grown to take over more than 17 percent of GDP.

(And if you think 17 percent is about right, consider that in Singapore healthcare takes up less than 3 percent of GDP.)

The trouble with any further healthcare reform is that a massive coalition of special interests in multiple sectors has formed as a husk around the entire industry — a care-tel, if you will — and they will be very difficult to dislodge.

 

 

5 trends and issues to watch in the insurance industry in 2020

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/top-5-trends-and-issues-to-watch-insurance-industry-2020

Image result for 5 trends and issues to watch in the insurance industry in 2020

The insurance industry appears likely to have another big year in 2020, as growth in government and commercial markets is expected to continue.

But a presidential election and new transparency initiatives could throw some major curveballs to payers.

Here are the top five issues and trends to watch out for in the next year:

Medicare Advantage diversifies

Enrollment growth in Medicare Advantage is likely to continue next year, as more than 22 million Medicare beneficiaries already have a plan. But what will be different is diversification into new populations, especially as insurers pursue dually eligible beneficiaries on both Medicare and Medicaid.

“This is being made possible because of strong support from government,” said Dan Mendelson, founder of consulting firm Avalere Health.

Support for Medicare Advantage “transcends partisanship and that has been true under Trump and Obama,” he added.

New benefit designs, such as paying for food or transportation to address social determinants of health, are also going to increase in popularity. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has made it easier for plans to offer such supplemental benefits.

Get ready for transparency, whether you like it or not

This past year saw CMS release a major rule on transparency that forces hospitals to post payer-negotiated rates starting in 2021 for more than 300 “shoppable” hospital services.

The rule, which is being contested in court, could fundamentally change how insurers negotiate with hospitals on how to cover those services. The rule brings up questions about revealing “private information for the sake of transparency,” said Monica Hon, vice president for consulting firm Advis.

But it remains unclear how the court battle over the rule, which has garnered opposition from not just hospitals but also insurers, will play out. Hospital groups behind the lawsuit challenging the rule have had success getting favorable rulings that struck down payment cuts.

“I think there is going to be a lot of back and forth,” Hon said. “Whatever the result is that will impact how payers and providers negotiate rates with this transparency rule.”

Don’t expect major rules in 2020

2020 is a presidential and congressional election year, and traditionally few major initiatives get going in Congress. But experts say the same goes for regulations as administrations tend not to issue major regulations in the run-up to the vote in November, said Ben Isgur, leader of PwC’s Health Research Institute.

“What we will end up with is much more change on regulations on the state side,” Isgur said.

But new regulations on proposals that have been floated could be released. Chief among them could be a final rule to halt information blocking at hospitals and a new regulation on tying Medicare Part B prices for certain drugs to the prices paid in certain countries.

Congressional lawmakers are still hoping to reach a compromise on surprise billing, but they don’t have much time before campaigning for reelection in November.

A lot of the healthcare direction will be set after the presidential election in November. If a Democrat defeats President Donald Trump, then waivers for items like Medicaid work requirements and block grants will likely go by the wayside.

“Depending on who takes the White House and Congress, are we going to further repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it or will we have Medicare for All,” Isgur said.

Insurers continue to go vertical in dealmaking

Insurers certainly weren’t shy about engaging in mergers and acquisitions in 2019, and that trend doesn’t appear likely to dissipate next year.

But the types of mergers might be different. Insurers and providers are increasingly looking at deals that would offer a vertical integration, such as acquiring more pharmacy services or a technology company to enhance the patient experience. Plenty of big-ticket vertical deals, such as CVS’ acquisition of Aetna and Cigna’s purchase of Express Scripts, have changed the industry landscape significantly.

“Deals in 2020 are going to be much more around the identity,” Isgur said. “Five years ago we had a lot of horizontal deals where health systems got bigger and regional payers got bigger.”

Payers continue to push patients away from hospitals

Insurers are going to try to find new ways to push patients toward outpatient services to avoid higher costs from going to a hospital.

For instance, “we are seeing a lot of payers not going to honor hospital imaging,” said Hon. “A lot of payers are saying we want you to go outside the hospital and that is a lot cheaper for us,” she said.

Instead, payers will try to steer patients toward imaging centers or physicians’ offices.

“We are seeing that with imaging and free-standing surgical centers now being able to do a lot more,” she added.

Insurers are also starting to use primary care more proactively to “ensure that they understand the needs of the patient, their needs are being addressed,” Mendelson said.

 

 

 

A look at what lies under the (high) deductible

https://mailchi.mp/f3434dd2ba5d/the-weekly-gist-december-20-2019?e=d1e747d2d8

 

With the continued growth in high deductible health plans (HDHPs) in both employer- and exchange-based insurance markets, a larger number of services are falling “under the deductible”, leaving patients responsible for the full cost of care

The graphic above illustrates the national cost ranges of ten common outpatient services, based on data from a publicly-available commercial claims databaseIt’s not just minor services like lab tests or diagnostic imaging that are falling under the deductible—many consumers are now paying full freight for a growing list of outpatient procedures like cataract or carpal tunnel surgery, or even knee arthroscopy.

Shopping can pay off: for any service, the highest-priced provider can be over three times the lowest-priced, translating into thousands of dollars of savings for patients with high-deductible plans.

Outpatient services now account for over half the revenue of many health systems. As deductibles climb, more and more of the (profitable) health system services are becoming “shoppable” for consumers—creating an imperative for systems to both lower costs and pursue rational pricing as scrutiny becomes more intense.

 

 

Nonprofit hospitals get bump in Moody’s ratings for 2020

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/nonprofit-hospitals-get-bump-in-moodys-ratings-for-2020/568739/

UPDATE: Dec. 11, 2019: Fitch Ratings also changed its sector outlook for the U.S. nonprofit health systems market to stable from negative for 2020 in a report released Tuesday.

Dive Brief:

  • Next year should be kinder to nonprofit hospitals and health systems, with Moody’s Investors Service forecasting a 2% to 3% growth in operating cash flow next year, driven by stronger provider revenue due to Medicare and commercial reimbursement raises and growth in patient volumes.
  • Moody’s revised its 2020 outlook for the not-for-profit provider sector from negative to stable as a result, and expects to see increased consolidation as hospitals bid to gain “negotiating leverage with commercial insurers, achieve savings through economies of scale, and ensure a foothold in emerging offerings such as urgent care and telemedicine,” analysts wrote.​
  • That’s not to say health systems won’t continue to contend with sharp industry headwinds like rising labor costs and the aging population, along with uncertainty from up-in-the-air legislation, regulation and lawsuits.

Dive Insight:

High Medicare reimbursement rates should, along with slightly more favorable commercial reimbursements, drive sector revenue to jump 4% to 5%, Moody’s predicts. Medicare payment rates in 2020 are the most industry-friendly in a while, analysts say, at 3.1% for overall inpatient rates and 2.6% for outpatient.

Fitch Ratings, which also revised its sector outlook from negative to stable, noted balance sheet measures for the providers are now at levels not seen since before the Great Recession in 2007.

Expense management is also forecast to improve cash flow, though provider shortages will cause labor costs to grow.

A growth in the number of uninsured is projected to curb some of the gains expected under this positive forecast, however. The uninsured rate reached 13.7% at the end of 2018, ticking up from 12.2% in 2017 and a low of 10.6% in 2016, according to Gallup. Policy experts blame the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, along with other Trump administration policies destabilizing the market.

Other regulatory waves could also impact hospital margins next year.

Cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share payments are likely to be postponed until late 2020 at least, which will help hospitals serving a large number of low-income patients. The $4 billion payment reduction was supposed to go into effect in 2014, but lawmakers have delayed the unpopular cuts annually since.

On Nov. 21, the Senate approved a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Dec. 20. The CR once again pushed back the trims to the Medicaid payments.

Trump administration policy requiring payers and providers to post secret negotiated rates online could help some hospitals and hurt others, with some health experts arguing it would stimulate competition through transparency and others warning it could cause prices across the board to rise.

Hospital lobbies filed a lawsuit Dec. 4 to stop the rule, arguing it violates the First Amendment and would put overly onerous administrative burdens on providers.

Cuts to the 340B Drug Discount program, meant to prop up hospitals with a large amount of uncompensated care, could also hurt the sector. The program generated an average savings of almost $12 million across all U.S. hospitals last year.

In May, a federal judge struck down planned HHS cuts to 340B, arguing the change was outside of the agency’s authority. However, CMS has said it plans to go through with the payment reductions in the final outpatient rule for 2020.

On the legislative side, the Republican state-led initiative to find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional would shear an estimated 20 million Americans from coverage and raise premiums on millions more, hitting both hospitals and the consumer hard. ​

“The fate of the ACA will likely again rest with the Supreme Court,” Moody’s analysts said. “An adverse ruling there would have painful implications for hospitals if millions of individuals lose insurance,” and “coverage gains from Medicaid expansion would likely be lost.”

 

 

 

‘An Arm and a Leg’: How much for stitches in the ER? Hard to gauge upfront

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20191205/e28098An-Arm-and-a-Lege28099-How-much-for-stitches-in-the-ER-Hard-to-gauge-upfront.aspx

Image result for ‘An Arm and a Leg’: How much for stitches in the ER? Hard to gauge upfront

Sarah Macsalka had heard the stories about how expensive an emergency room visit can be, even for a minor complaint.

http://aca.st/b26519

So when her 7-year-old son, Cameron, tripped and gashed his knee in the backyard, the ER was not where her family headed first. In fact, Macsalka did just about everything she could to avoid paying a big, fat bill to get Cameron’s knee stitched up.

Ultimately, she failed.

Her adventure raises a big question: In a system where consumers are encouraged to “shop” for the best deal in health care, why is it so hard to get simple information, like a price?

On this week’s episode of “An Arm and a Leg,” we get some answers.

Instead of taking her son to the local emergency room for stitches, Macsalka took him to an urgent care clinic, one that provides patients with prices ahead of the service. There, the staff said stitching up Cameron’s knee would cost $150.

But there was a problem. The clinic didn’t have the topical anesthetic the doctor would need to numb Cameron’s skin first.

“And Cameron is like screaming and crying,” Macsalka said. “He doesn’t take pain well.”

So, reluctantly, the family headed to the local emergency room.

Macsalka tried to be a smart shopper there, too. When a staff member came to take her insurance information, Macsalka grilled him about how much the visit would cost.

“He was like, ‘I don’t know. Just walking through the ER [door] costs $600,'” she said.

To Macsalka, that sounded like a “facility fee” — a cover charge of sorts, separate from any health care services. And it sounded pricey. But she was over a barrel.

“The kid is still screaming and crying,” she said. “His knee’s a mess.” She wasn’t about to drive him back to the urgent care place and start over again.

They got the stitches in the ER. And, as it happened, the anesthetic wasn’t very effective.

Macsalka said her son’s screams were ear-piercing. “Yeah, Cameron’s lungs did not give out,” she said. “Those are very healthy lungs.”

As it turned out, Macsalka’s attempts to figure out what the final price would be weren’t very effective either.  A few weeks after the ER visit, she got a bill for the doctor’s services and paid it: $214 after insurance.

Then there was another bill from the hospital. One line: $2,824.

Macsalka went back into smart-consumer mode. She called the hospital billing department and asked if there had been a mistake.

Macsalka said the person she spoke with on the phone told her that “just walking through the doors” of the emergency room cost $4,200. That amount matches a number on her insurance statement — an amount before the insurance company’s negotiated discount.

After that discount, the bill was $2,824 – and because Macsalka’s family had a high deductible, they were responsible for paying it all.

Macsalka said she tried another tactic and asked the billing representative: What if I didn’t have insurance? She said the billing rep told her: In that case, the hospital would accept 10% of its total bill to make sure it collected something. Without a negotiated rate from insurance, the total would have been about $6,000, so 10% would have been about $600.

It was more than Macsalka had hoped to pay. But less than $3,000.

“So I was like, ‘Fine, cool, I’ll take it.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh no. You can’t because it’s already gone through your insurance company. So that’s not an option for you.'”

Having insurance — with a high deductible — meant Macsalka was on the hook for the $2,800 charge.

She wishes someone could have told her the price upfront.

“I would’ve said thank you very much. And walked out and gone back to our lovely urgent care and been like, Cameron, bite on this stick,” she said.

For Episode 4, we also rounded up a hospital consultant and a journalist to better understand the perspectives of the hospital and insurance company.