In a recent hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressman James Lankford (R-Okla.) lauded the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, a multispecialty facility in Oklahoma City, as a place where "competition has driven up quality and driven down price."
He's right. Just ask Jerome Longacre, a fitness trainer at Colaw Fitness in Bartlesville. Mr. Longacre recently tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). He told me that at the Jane Phillips hospital in Bartlesville (which is sponsored by the St. John Health System, which operates St. John Medical Center in Tulsa), an ACL repair was going to cost him roughly $25,000, though if he paid cash it would be closer to $15,000. This was better than $25,000, but it was still a daunting prospect.
That's when a friend told him about the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, which is owned by some of the top surgeons and anesthesiologists in central Oklahoma. (Many physicians, including the current and past chairmen of the ear, nose, and throat department at one of the largest hospitals in Oklahoma City, prefer to operate at the Surgery Center.) The Surgery Center actually posts its prices online, so Mr. Longacre visited the website and discovered that an anterior cruciate ligament repair is $6,990. That price includes the initial consultation with the surgeon, the surgeon's fee, the anesthesiologist's fee, the facility fee, and uncomplicated-follow-up care.
Upon learning this, Mr. Longacre called Jane Phillips to inform them of the Surgery Center's price and to ask if they would match it. "I talked to three different ladies," he told me. "Finally, the last one said, 'Let me call you back.' She called back in about 10 or 15 minutes and said the CFO had approved that price."
Mr. Longacre will have the surgery in Bartlesville.
So a procedure that once looked to be around $25,000 -- or at least $15,000 -- turns out to be closer to $7,000. Granted, it will be interesting to see if Jane Phillips bills Mr. Longacre for $25,000 but tells him he's only responsible for $6,990 (so they can count the difference as "un-reimbursed care"). But Mr. Longacre doesn't care -- he's just glad he can get the surgery at the lower price and doesn't have to travel out of town for it.
One could say the good folks at Jane Phillips, ever responsive to the needs of those requiring cost-effective care, have provided compassionate ministry in keeping with their Christian mission. Or perhaps not. As Mr. Longacre told me, "The only reason they gave me a good price was because I found that place in Oklahoma City." In any case, the result is the same.
Are the folks at the Surgery Center upset that they didn't get the business? Not at all. One of the facility's owners, Dr. Keith Smith, told me: "I am pleased to welcome Jane Phillips Hospital and their parent St. John Hospital to the new competitive medical marketplace. Reducing their charge of $15,000 to match our online price indicates that they realize that it is time to embrace price and quality competition and that they are willing to do so in order to keep Bartlesville patients from traveling to Oklahoma City.
"While we never had an opportunity to meet this patient," Dr. Smith said, "we are gratified to have saved him and his family $8,000."
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