Why can't they tell you the price upfront?

Sarah Macsalka has seen the stories about how expensive an emergency room visit can be, even for a minor complaint.


So when her seven year-old son Cameron gashed his knee on a weekend morning in June, the ER was NOT where her family headed first.


In fact, Macsalka did just about everything she could to avoid paying a big, fat bill to get Cameron’s knee stitched up — and ultimately failed.


For instance, she took Cameron first to a local urgent-care clinic, but was told they didn't have anesthetic. So it was off to the ER.


Before signing anything, Sarah asked what it might cost and pressed hard — but got only squishy answers.


She ended up liable for $3,000 in charges. If only she had known.


“I would've said thank you very much. And walked out and gone back to our lovely urgent care and been like, 'Cameron, bite on this stick.'”


Her adventures make an entertaining parable, and they raise a big question: In a health care system where consumers are told to "shop" for the best deal, why is it so hard for us to get the information we need?


On this episode, we get some answers, thanks to a super-insider and straight shooter: Lisa Bielamowicz, a doctor who now runs Gist Healthcare, a consultancy firm where hospitals are the clients, gives us the dirt.


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