Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cedars Sinai Medical Center, what does Marcellus Wallace look like?

An Open Letter to Cedars Sinai Medical Center

February 1, 2012


Lawrence B. Platt Chair, Board of Directors

cc Thomas M. Priselac President and CEO, Vera Guerin Vice Chair, Marc Rapaport Secretary

I've had the great pleasure of receiving treatment at your facility for a head injury sustained in a hit and run criminal act perpetrated by an unknown assailant. My choice to use your facility was necessitated by my insurance carrier, Anthem Blue Cross, which I understand considers your facility a "preferred vendor."

My doctor, Raymond Chu, came HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and I can attest that his reputation is well deserved. In addition to his impeccable bedside manners, he also gave me the most comprehensive lesson in hand-washing I ever received. Kudos (but not Koodies) to you Dr. Chu!

I can report that by all measures, I have fully recovered from my injury. Dr. Chu thought best that I get an MRI to be absolutely sure this is the case. He ordered up an MRI downstairs at your medical imaging division and his office sent the necessary paperwork to Anthem to get them to agree that it is medically necessary/yes we'll approve it/payment yadda yadda.

So last night, my appointment arrived. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I asked how much the procedure would cost. Without blinking an eye, the straight-faced gentleman with an amazing old hollywood moustache responded it would cost almost $10,000, I believe the exact quote was $9,680. At that very moment the foul stench of metaphorical Rattus norvegicus overwhelmed my Olfactory Epithelium, and my instinctual response was to immediately head for the door. Later that evening, I did some research which confirmed my suspicion: your rate for this procedure is way beyond the normal price, I mean waaaaay beyond, like "no waaay" man! So I called up Anthem Blue Cross and learned that they will only cover "reasonable" costs for procedures, and then said that quote was "shocking."

She said "We will pay a customary and reasonable amount only. Since I had a high deductible plan, I could be looking at anywhere from  $1100 up to $5850! I don't know what Anthem considers reasonable (they wouldn't tell me because they can't predict what "key codes" would be used by the billing department. Anthem recommended I get in touch with another facility that is nearby:

Universal MRI

They quoted me a cash price of, get this, $450. They use a GE 1.5 High Field MRI imager, anf though it's not a 3T, it's still got plenty of juice to get the job done.

Then I called Dr Chu to get his blessing on the switcheroo. Yessie also was astonished with Cedar's rate. She then told me Dr Chu also approves of the image quality at another facility, Mink Radiology in Beverly Hills:


Mink uses the same GE 1.5 but they charge $720. So I call back Yessie and ask if they both use the same machine does it really matter? She said, go for Universal but make sure you get the disc.

So here we are. For a common medical test, Cedars charges 22 times the price as another facility right down the street.

Given the enormity of this price difference, and your status as a non-profit institution, why is it that a for-profit neighbor is so much more affordable? Why is it that a facility such as yours with integrated services and economies of scale is not less expensive? As I was leaving Cedars last night, I couldn't get this scene from Pulp Fiction out of my head.

What does Marsellus Wallace Look Like? from David Neudorfer on Vimeo

In conclusion, I'd like to ask you the same question Jules posed to Brett:

What do I look like?

Yours Truly,

The Engaged Observer

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