Patients' Requests To Doctors Receive Varied Responses

USA Today: According to a study appearing in the Journal Of Emergency Medicine, "Emergency room patients who ask to be seen by a physician of their same gender, race or religious background are not always treated equally, U.S. researchers find. The request is most often granted when the patient is a woman, a racial minority, or a Muslim. … Reasons why racial minority patients may ask for a doctor of the same race include prior discrimination, feelings of a lack of cultural sensitivity, and language difficulties, according to the release. About 80% of emergency physicians in the United States are white, and a survey of 176 members of the American College of Emergency Physicians found that many are unaware of these types of problems experienced by racial minority patients (Preidt, 8/1).

Meanwhile, Kaiser Health News reports on a phenomenon within the doctor-patient relationship: discounts. The idea is that it may be possible to get a discount if a patient asks for one directly. "That's what Shelly Gordon of Palo Alto did. Gordon, who has a Blue Cross health plan with a $5,000 deductible and a $500 monthly premium, buys her own insurance since losing a job and starting her own public relations and communications firm. When she had her annual checkup, she learned that it came with a $350 price tag. Gordon explained to the doctor that her insurance would not pick up any of the expense because she had not yet met her deductible and that the payment would be a financial struggle for her. So the doctor removed a few routine tests from the bill, saving Gordon about $125." Her circumstances are hardly unique. In terms of premiums, deductibles and copayments, "even people with insurance can have trouble paying their out-of-pocket medical expenses." Asking about pricing and negotiating can make a difference (Zamosky, 8/2).

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