Wall Street Journal Profiles Uninsured California Patient’s Tactics for Bargaining With Providers for Lower Medical Bills
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday profiled Curtis Selby -- a California resident who chooses to be uninsured because of his religious beliefs -- and examines how his tactic of negotiating with providers over the cost of his care highlights "what millions of Americans may soon be doing." Selby is a member of the Old German Baptist Brethren Church, a Christian denomination that believes "God will pull them through any crisis," the Journal reports. Traditionally, members of the church have declined to obtain any kind of health insurance and paid for their own care, which has become more challenging in recent years as health costs rise. Recently, Selby has had several health problems, including a heart attack, cancer, pancreatitis and a diseased gallbladder, and has bargained with hospitals and doctors to obtain discounted treatment.
In the process, he has "experienced first-hand a system that is reluctant to disclose prices" and "how hospitals charge uninsured people the full sticker rate, while giving health insurance companies" and public health insurance programs "big breaks off the listed price," the Journal reports. However, in the course of his bargaining efforts -- which included haggling over prices, asking for discounts in return for upfront cash payments, price-comparison shopping and appealing to hospital executives -- Selby found that many hospitals were willing to accommodate his religious beliefs and provide him with discounted care.
According to the Journal, Selby received discounts worth tens of thousands of dollars from the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center, Sonora Regional Medical Center and Loma Linda University Medical Center. "We exist to serve the community," Dave Larsen, a senior vice president for finance at Sonora, said, adding that the hospital is prepared to offer discounts to anyone who negotiates (Lagnado, Wall Street Journal, 11/24).