Wisconsin Leads Nation in High Physician Costs

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: A study by the Government Accountability Office says of the 10 highest cost cities in America, eight are in Wisconsin.

Most patients at Dean Clinics never get a price estimate before they see a physician. If they did, a new government report says they would be quoted some of the highest prices in the nation.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) requested the study. "Wisconsinites across the state pay so much more on our physician prices and on health care in general."

Congressman Ryan says the problem is that most patients don't know and don't care about how expensive their health care is. So when the price goes up it's not noticed.

"Due to a consolidation of our health care providers and a lack of real competition where consumers have leverage with respect to providers and have the ability to shop around for health care."

"When we first saw the report from the GAO I guess we were pretty shocked," says Dr. Susan Turney, CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society.

Turney says the study may be flawed for a number of reasons. The first is that it only looked at federal employees. "We don't know if this data was skewed because if it was a small data sample for example and when they extrapolated the data it caused numbers to be distorted."

Congressman Ryan says federal employees were used because nationwide they all have the same health insurance. "It is a standard measuring stick the GAO could use to compare apples to apples with respect to health care prices throughout America."

Another concern with the study is why it looked at list price instead of the actual cost of health care. Health insurance companies negotiate large discounts meaning list prices can be misleading. "It is unusual in this business to see someone pay that full charge," says Dr. Allen Kemp, CEO of Dean Clinics. "There are discounts that can range from as low as 15 percent to as high as 60 percent depending on who the payer is."

Congressman Ryan disagrees, "They concluded very conclusively that those were not factors for our high costs."

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