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Most Trusted Name? CNN Runs Outrageous Health Care Tale

CNN reports a man couldn't find a better quote for his surgery than a price ten times higher than the going rate. This is bad enough to put all CNN health reporting in question.

by
Dr. Peter Weiss

Bio

May 7, 2010 - 12:00 am

CNN recently published the story of Godfrey Davies, an American without health insurance who wanted to have his nasal polyps removed: “I can’t afford surgery in the U.S, says bargain shopper.”

Davies says he got several “bids” from independent doctors, as well as from hospitals. The cheapest price he could find in the U.S. was $33,127 for the entire procedure, but Davies claims he was eventually able to locate a doctor and hospital in the UK that would perform the procedure for approximately $3,500. Davies, originally from Wales, said:

I can put up with a lot of inconvenience to save that kind of money.

In accompanying video, CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen and Davies parked alongside Northside ENT in Indianapolis. Davies stated that this was his first stop, and where he was quoted the $34,000 fee. CNN claims they followed up with Northside ENT and received the following email:

We inadvertently provided an incorrect quote for the consumer. The actual price was less than half of what we initially quoted.

Does Godfrey Davies have no insurance, and was he actually quoted an exorbitant amount from a hospital for what should be an outpatient procedure? Did he actually go to Wales for his nasal surgery?

I don’t know, but the remainder of the story is just not true.

While it’s very expensive to have a nasal polypectomy at a major hospital, the same procedure could be performed at a surgery center anywhere in the U.S. — including Indianapolis — for a lot less. Less than Davies claims the procedure cost in Wales, in fact.

I went on Yelp.com and contacted the very first ENT I found in Indianapolis: Dr. Ed Krowiak, board-certified. Here’s his response to my quote request:

In summary, for endoscopic sinus surgery for a polyp patient paying cash at our facility in Indianapolis, [here] are the following costs:

Facility $1600.00
Anesthesia $425.00
Supplies (debrider) $250.00
Surgeon $1165.00

I would be happy to discuss these issues with anyone interested.
By the way, we have 10 ENT docs at our surgery center who would all follow this general financial guideline.

Ed Krowiak

That comes to $3,440 — a tenth of what CNN and Davies claimed to be the cheapest price he could find.

I tried a doctor in a city with a higher cost of living: Dr. David Alessi, board-certified ENT in private practice in Los Angeles. Dr. Alessi is also on staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center:

Assuming the polyps aren’t complicated, the total “cash package” could be as low as $4000. This would include endoscopic sinus surgery and removing the polyps by the “roots” and not just snipping a few in the nasal cavity. This fee includes everything; anesthesia, operating room, nurses, post-op recovery, everything, and that’s in the “big city.”

Simple outpatient surgery at a hospital is expensive, and this topic alone could be the basis for a valid, worthwhile article on CNN. But having the same surgery in an outpatient center is quite feasible even for those without insurance, and this research would have taken CNN — or Godfrey Davies himself, who supposedly took off for Wales rather than perform it — one phone call.

CNN’s story was through and through false, intended to sensationalize the health care debate. With journalism this egregiously bad being allowed to appear, all other health care reporting produced by this outlet needs to be more thoroughly examined.

Peter Weiss M.D., F.A.C.O.G., is Director and Founder of The Rodeo Drive Women's Health Center. He is also Assistant Clinical Professor of OB/GYN at The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He was health care adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign. Dr Weiss is an Attending physician at Cedars Sinai and St Johns Health Centers
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