Letter: Unfair health fair | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Unfair health fair

A not-so-sanguine situation has risen involving the annual Aspen Valley Hospital Health Fair blood tests.

For many years, the health fair has offered a more complete blood test along with a thyroid and prostate option that the community could count on at a yearly price below $100. People might then take the results to their doctor for further explanation. This was a local consumer consideration and a frugal end run around insurance companies. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

The standard full-panel blood test, known as a comprehensive metabolic panel, usually includes cholesterol, glucose, blood count, calcium, proteins, electrolytes, kidney and liver tests. There are numerous stories where an annual comprehensive metabolic panel has picked up anomalies, catching medical problems at an earlier, cost-saving stage.

Regrettably, this long-standing community benefit at the fair has been cut back by Aspen Valley Hospital to include only glucose and cholesterol for $25.

This may appear to be a welcome bargain for the less informed, but the majority who have counted on the more comprehensive annual comprehensive metabolic panel tests for a reasonable fee are now faced with dramatically higher copays and deductibles when their doctor orders the tests through medical-insurance carriers — up to $2,000, some have reported.

Reasons for this switch come easily to mind. But first, a bit of popular opinion might be aired.

Many feel that the hospital has been expanding too much and taking over too many private medical practices while trying to become a profitable, destination-style Mayo Clinic. At the same time, there seems to be a revolving door of high-cost CEOs. Great hospital experiences and some not so great are anecdotal about town. Nevertheless, we’re happy the hospital is here.

Yet, throughout, we have consistently voted for extra mill levies whenever the hospital has asked for more. In return, it seems only fair that it offers the full comprehensive metabolic panel tests once again to its taxpaying community.

As for the switch to less inclusive blood tests, the evolution of cost to the consumer for these tests through one’s insurance is relevant. For a long time, the full comprehensive metabolic panel for the insured carried a packaged, single copay. Then insurance carriers and medical facilities, in cahoots, broke down the package so that each blood panel became a separate test with higher individual copays. At the same time, deductibles rose. This increasing a la carte-style billing has driven up out-of-pocket costs for many other onetime packaged medical tests and procedures, as well.

Thus, with their impenetrable billing formulas, in a kind of back-and-forth volley, insurers and providing facilities make more money while the consumer pays more and more. It is easy to suspect that this is the case with Aspen Valley Hospital. Its reduced health-fair blood tests essentially drive us back into the insurance market. Traveling to Glenwood or Grand Junction health fairs for full blood tests is an option. But why should we have to?

Hopefully, Aspen Valley Hospital will do the right thing and offer a full-panel, economical blood test at its health fair once again.

Tim Cooney


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