Opinion: Tahoe-Truckee patients should be allowed to choose where to go | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Tahoe-Truckee patients should be allowed to choose where to go

Ross H. Golding, MD

This is a response to the Oct. 13 opinion column by Dr. Chuck Zipkin, "We need to save our hospital," regarding the effects of Tahoe Forest Hospital competing against free-standing medical centers and essentially asking the Truckee community to pay higher fees to keep their medical facility profitable.

It is interesting Dr. Zipkin failed to mention the patient in his discussion. Educated patients today recognize their right to choose where they get their health care.

Consumers know that lower prices do not mean lower quality. With the rollout of Obamacare in 2014, higher deductibles and larger co-pays require patients look for health care that is not only high quality, but lower cost.

The state of Massachusetts recently enacted a law requiring health insurers to publish charges. This encourages transparency and enables patients to intelligently compare providers.

Historically, patients were used to paying small co-pays for most medical imaging. Since Obamacare, many patients' health insurance have deductibles of $2,000-$5,000 combined with higher co-pays.

These changes are driving patients to become informed consumers. They are learning that there is often up to a 300 percent difference in cost for the same procedure.

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With rising high deductible plans, consumers are shopping. They ask questions about price, technology and turnaround times.

They should be asking these questions. There is not a business that will survive if it is not competitive. Why should hospitals be any different?

The commentary of Dr. Zipkin does not put the patient first. He is encouraging the community to pay higher fees just to keep the hospital doors open.

Why should someone have to wait longer than necessary for an appointment, navigate through the hospital and pay a higher fee just to get an outpatient service that they can obtain quickly for less out-of-pocket expense within a 30 minute commute?

Today, hospitals and health care providers face multiple challenges including escalating government regulations that result in increased costs.

The challenge to today's leaders in healthcare is to reduce cost while increasing quality. This is by no means easy but it is doable, and essential for the betterment of our patients and the survival of our hospitals.

Financial survival will not come by excessive charges. Dr. Zipkin's view may not be the only option. Hospitals need to prioritize cost reduction and need to be more transparent about their expenditures and costs.

Patients should be allowed to choose where they go. They may choose to stay local, they may choose to seek care out of town, but they should be the ones to choose and make their best-informed decisions.

Ross H. Golding, M.D., is president and medical director at Reno Diagnostic Centers. Visit renodiagnosticcenters.com to learn more.