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Understanding Medical Fees

Fees are an important part of your training for medical assistant certification.

As a general rule, physicians do not actually discuss their fees with patients. There are a number of reasons for this. Some simply relate to an old-fashioned sense that it is not the doctor’s responsibility. Others relate to concerns that financial pressures might sway patients to make medical decisions that are not in their best interests. Either way, physicians themselves are usually not the ones to discuss the cost of treatment with their patients.

Instead, this responsibility will usually fall on the physician’s staff, especially on any certified medical assistants. One of the primary roles of the medical assistant is to handle the financial paperwork associated with not only the treatment themselves, but also with handling the paperwork related to the insurance company. This makes the medical assistant not only the person who handles patients’ questions and concerns, but who is actually the expert in the cost of treatment.

In order to perform this role effectively, then, let us look at how medical fees are actually calculated. In general, someone is paying for three things when receiving medical care: time, equipment and specialization. Each of these parts has its own rules for how much it affects the overall cost of a procedure:

Time: First, a patient is paying for the time of the physician and of any of the other staff of the medical clinic of whom he or she makes use. This cost is relatively fixed. Physicians generally won’t perform tasks that are far below their level of specialization, while patients would seek out another physician if time costs become too high.

Equipment: This includes the room and building and so forth, making it partly a fixed cost. However, specializes medical equipment is costly, and can only be used for one patient at a time. Therefore, specialized equipment (like MRI machines) will increase the cost.

Specialization: One of the most expensive aspects of medical care is specialization. A physician who is specialized in a field is in low supply (as opposed to GP’s, who are in high supply). Therefore, the kinds of task the physician is performing will set the cost of the procedure.

The above will help you understand the basic principles of medical fees and help in responding to patient needs.

by Lindsay Schloss

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