You may live in a community in which, when you go to the doctor for a routine checkup, you understand what the bill will be.
If you have a grandfathered health insurance policy, or no insurance, you find out what the bill will be, get your checkup, and pay a bill (or bills) that match your expectations.
Or, you have a major medical policy that complies with the terms of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), and you know that your checkups are part of the PPACA preventive services package.
You know that, under PPACA, checkups are supposed to be “free.”
You go to an in-network doctor, get your checkup, and, hurray: It’s “free.”
You, your employer, the taxpayers, or some combination of you, your employer and taxpayers paid premiums to the health plan. The health plan paid your doctor. But the plan and the doctor took care of all that money stuff outside of your line of sight. You just went in, got poked and prodded, and promised to eat less and exercise more.
In theory, maybe you helped improve the quality and efficiency of the U.S. health care system by giving and getting information that will catch small, cheap problems before they turn into big, scary, life-ruining, budget-busting problems.
And maybe the same thing is happening to your individual health clients, or the employees of your group plan clients.
One little glitch: If you’re in an area like mine, that simple checkup never, ever seems to be anything that looks remotely like “free.”
See also: On the Third Hand: Bad Consumer
The “free,” routine checkup always turns into some kind of shockingly big bill.
I live near New York City. When I tell friends and relatives what I do, their eyes immediately glaze over.