Mechanics vs. doctors

A group of neighbors got together over the weekend and while a few of us were talking the topic of mechanics and doctors came up and I had an aha moment over something one individual said. We were discussing a plethora of topics, but this one comparing mechanics to doctors was so spot on.

Think about this. You take your car in to get fixed, whether for its regular tune up or because you heard an odd sound. They take some time to explore the issue, and then before they do any work they let you know what the issue is, what they will have to do (if it ever makes any sense) and how much it is going to cost. You know right then your doom. Do you walk away with the cost of an oil change, or is time to get a new car? You might need new brakes, a new engine, or some other strange part you have never heard of.

Juxtaposition that with going to the doctor. You go to the doctor for a check-up or because something specific is bothering you. They tell you they need to run a bunch of tests. You wait for the results (days) and you then wait much longer (often weeks to months) to find out how much it is truly going to cost you. Even with good insurance you often do not know how much the different tests will cost you. Additionally, it depends on who does the tests. I have found that some places charge vastly different amounts for the exact same test. I guess a mechanic is similar in that different mechanics can charge different amounts for the same work. However, if all the doctor or lab is doing is taking our blood, and testing it how can there be such a vast different in cost? A lot of the costs have to do with what your insurance company will pay, what your specific plan covers, or if you hit your deductible.

How is it that you can get your car diagnosed and you can get the price, but you cannot get the price for what it might take to fix you? There should be more transparency of costs. Sort of like when you go to a restaurant and they show the calorie and fat content, the cost details for tests and doctor visits should be available to patients.

Would a change in this process start with doctor’s offices or with the insurance companies? What do you think?