“Twilight! She has to have twilight,” insisted the adult daughter of my frail, 85-year-old patient. “She can’t have general anesthesia. She hasn’t been cleared for general anesthesia!”
We were in the preoperative area of my hospital, where my patient – brightly alert, with a colorful headband and bright red lipstick – was about to undergo surgery. Her skin had broken down on both legs due to poor circulation in her veins, and she needed skin grafts to cover the open wounds. She had a long list of cardiac and other health problems.
This would be a painful procedure, and there would be no way to numb the areas well enough to do the surgery under local anesthesia alone. My job was to figure out the best combination of anesthesia medications to get her safely through her surgery. Her daughter was convinced that a little sedation would be enough. I wasn’t so sure.
“Were you asleep the last time your doctor worked on your legs?” I asked the patient. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Completely asleep.”
“But she didn’t have general,” the daughter interrupted. “She just had twilight.”
How much does a colonoscopy cost? Well, that depends.
If you’re uninsured, this is a big question. We’ve learned that cash or self-pay prices can range from $600 to over $5,400, so it pays to ask.
If you’re insured, you may think it doesn’t matter. Routine, preventive screening colonoscopies are to be covered free with no co-insurance or co-payment under the Affordable Care Act.
However, we’re learning that with colonoscopies, as with mammograms, people are being asked to pay sometimes. It’s not clear to us in every case that they should pay, and since we don’t know all the details of these events, we can only offer some general thoughts. We’ve also heard from Medicare enrollees without supplemental Medicare policies that they think they’re responsible for 20 percent of the charged price — so 20 percent of $600 vs. 20 percent of $5,400 is a big deal.
If you’re on a high-deductible plan and the charge to you will be, say, $3,600, you can probably ask around and find a lower rate.
A thorough view of some colonoscopy billing issues is in this article in The New York Times by Libby Rosenthal, who has been covering health costs for the paper. We’ve heard also about in-network providers using out-of-network anesthesiologists, so it pays to pay attention.