Radio/TV Hospital Ads Should Include Cost and Financial Assistance Info

Now airing on NPR to ESPN, are hospital and doctor advertisements.  The ads explain all the great services and always “world class” doctors and specialty departments.  What they don’t talk about is the possible cost to the consumer.

The ads are designed to lure people into thinking the care will be extraordinary and of a higher quality. It may be, but the cost will be higher to the consumer.  The basic price of services is substantially higher.  An example of this is, MD Anderson hospital in Houston, a NIH specialty cancer center, charges $6500.00 for an abdominal/pelvic CAT Scan with contrast.  The local private doctors owned radiological center charges $800.00.  MD Anderson will say we have better machines.  How can a machine be $5700.oo better?

As with any marketing campaign, consumers can be lured into using the facilities.  Often the facility is not covered by the insurance but is considered out of network.  This means the consumer is going to pay more out of pocket for services.  They are also going to be billed at the highest rate.

The ads are deceptive at best.  They generally speak to the superior quality of care and high national rankings.  They target the most vulnerable like those with cancer or other chronic illnesses.  The message is, we will take care of you, don’t worry.  Consumers should worry, if the facility is out of network or your coinsurance is high.

I do not mind having the ads for hospitals and doctors but I feel it is ethically wrong not to address cost.  The ads should at least, provide a number to contact to find out about cost.  Consumers don’t know there could be a problem or that they may have to pay out of pocket.  It is the responsibility of the medical providers to be honest and straightforward about the possible financial risk to the consumer.