Health care transparency: the hidden cost of teen dermatology

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Health care transparency: the hidden cost of teen dermatology–

Everybody wants great looking skin, especially teens. But the teen lifestyle can often get in the way. For my 16-year-old son, blemishes were getting worse, so we booked an appointment with a dermatologist two months ago.

We had tried a number of OTC options without great success. We were excited to go to a dermatologist who deals with this issue on a daily basis. Trial and error with combinations of scrubs and washes would be history. I estimated that we’d be given a $20 Rx, told to cut down on pizza, soda, and chocolate, and be on our way.

Much to my surprise, one office visit and three prescriptions (Rx) cost about $500. I was shocked and felt ripped off. But as a parent, if it makes a dramatic difference in the life of your kid, you do it. I have a health savings account and money is not the issue.

Upon further investigation, my son was given 3 Rxs: One for an antibiotic (monthly cost $67 – and now two months later, there is only 40-50% improvement.). Since I no longer have the $10/20 co-pay option, you pay out of pocket for all your health care cost until you hit the high deductible. Fine, I get how this works finally.

The problem that showed its ugly blackhead was the cost of the two other items: An acne wash scrub and an acne cleanser.

I’m already spent hundred of dollars at CVS over the last few years on these acne products for my two kids. These days, you can hardly find any kind of wash, scrub, cleanser, or cover-up for under $10. It’s supply and demand; that’s why Neutrogena Aveeno, and others can continue to charge high prices.

But those prices were tame compared to the $37 acne scrub and $244 wash that were prescribed. Yes, $244 for a small bottle of an acne foam cleanser. I was not at CVS to pick up the meds, so didn’t find out about the cost until the items were already paid for and brought home.

Do the math: that’s almost $3000 on a yearly supply of a single item! Yikes.

The next day I called the CVS and asked the pharmacist if $244 was the correct price. Yes, it was correct and I was informed it was a lower-cost generic version of a foam cleanser. The real McCoy brand name acne cleanser cost about $500 for one month’s supply.

Am I nuts or are these prices so over-inflated that you lose respect for much of the medical establishment? Gee, I could go to a fancy cosmetics counter at Nieman Marcus and have a hard time spending that kind of money.

Still baffled, I called the customer care folks at CVS in Rhode Island and asked to double-check the price. It was correct. That’s the way it is. Then I called Costco pharmacy. Same price. No Costco discount.

When we called the dermatologist’s office, the office manager was surprised that we questioned the Rx. However, they had little idea of the actual cost that we were charged at CVS. We demanded an alternative and yes, there often are options, but you have to demand them. Instead of the $244 foam, we now have a $67 liquid.

The bottom line: as consumers of health care we need to take charge and find out how much things cost. When the cost are unknown or so outrageous (as in my case), we have to walk away and look for other options.

Health care transparency will be the next wave improving our great American health care system. As cost shifting moves to you and me, we need our providers to know more about not only the efficacy of Rx they prescribe, but the true out of pocket cost to the patient.

Before you get an appointment with a doctor, the office manager always asks what kind of insurance you have. Now we patients need to be asking questions – upfront and before we get sucked right back into the system.

David Conti
David Conti is a health & wellness advocate, marketing executive, community leader, and creative corporate communicator. A graduate of Boston College, David’s many interests include corporate health programs, music, personal growth, sustainability, Qi Gong, and building a social media community. He is also the co-founder of NE Businesses for Social Responsibility, which he started in 1988.
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