At One Clinic, Two Standards of Care

Separate entrance, faster service for those who pay out of pocket
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2009 12:12 PM CST
A radiologist examines scans. At some clinics, personal care comes to those who ditch their insurance for a cash payment.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – At one New York City radiology clinic you get what you pay for—there are different names, different doors, and very different experiences for those paying with insurance and those shelling out their own cash. MSNBC found that on the insurance side, appointments can take 15 days to schedule, the wait in the office is long, the service impersonal, and patients don’t even meet with a doctor to learn results.

On the “boutique” side, it's two days for an appointment, no wait, comfy robes, and a visit from the doctor. Insurance pays the clinic $140 for a mammogram; a private patient pays $350. Employees are forbidden from telling patients about the two-tiered system, but one doctor says it's all good. “The quality of care is identical,” he says. “It's the patient experience that's different.” Poppycock, says a bioethicist. “We're biting into the quality of care if you're not paying a premium. That's unethical. It's immoral. It's just flat-out wrong.”