HSA for America

Questions to Ask Your Surgeon or Physician, Before the Procedure

July 6, 2009
Vol. 5, Issue 6

People used to be very passive when it came to advice or directives from their physician.  They would ask few questions, and be intimidated about questioning the advice.  If that’s still your modus – its time to change.  By asking the correct questions, getting second opinions, and making your own decisions, you’ll get better quality healthcare and probably save some money as well.

Take Charge of Your Own Healthcare

Becoming a doctor costs thousands of dollars and takes thousands of hours of studying and effort.  I certainly respect the effort and appreciate the expertise that continues to bring some amazing healthcare advances to society.  It is important to have a physician you trust and respect, but be careful about deferring to their judgment too quickly.  Remember, it’s your money, and your health – so take the effort to make the right decisions.

If your physician recommends that you have surgery, make sure you understand exactly what the surgery will do for you.  Do not be afraid to continue asking questions, until you fully understand.  Ask:

  • How successful do you expect this surgery to be?
  • Are there alternatives to surgery?
  • What are the risks and how often do they occur?
  • How quickly have your other patients recovered?

Questions to ask about your Physician’s Experience

In a transparent marketplace, you can easily compare price, quality, convenience, and whatever features are important to you.  Then you can choose the option that works best for you.  When this works well, there is a wide range of choices, and a lot of value.

Medicine is just now beginning to open up to greater transparency, so it is our job as HSA owners to help speed the process along.   As a consumer you obviously want to get medical treatment from providers that have a high rate of success.  So ask:

  • How long have you been performing this type of operation, and how frequently do you do so?
  • Are you board certified in surgery?

Financial Questions

You also want to get a good value.  If you have a high deductible, you may even be paying for the entire procedure from your HSA, so it is important to talk about money.  You can sometimes get the feeling that it is considered impolite to ask the price when at the hospital or doctor’s office.  Hogwash.

Wiley IV, Learning About the Free Market


My son just recently started his first (short-lived) business, selling pictures of Sponge Bob Squarepants that he had drawn.  He first priced the pictures at $5, but after the first couple prospects offered lesser amounts, he lowered his price.  Price negotiation happens in the medical world, too.

So once you get a price ask for a discount.  (If you think you can’t negotiate, that’s hogwash too!) Have you ever bought a house or a car without negotiating?  People with financial smarts know that everything that has substantial cost can (and should) be negotiated.  At the very least, ask for a discount and see what they say.


  • Is this procedure covered by my insurance?
  • Can you give me an estimate of the total cost for this procedure?
  • Is that the discounted price that my PPO negotiated?
  • What kind of additional discount can I get for paying cash?

Also make sure you get preauthorization from your insurance company if that is required.

Be the “Decider”

Few things in medicine are black and white.  If you talk to two doctors, you may very well get two different recommendations.  So you can avoid thinking too hard about it and let someone else make the decision.  But if there is a serious procedure or health condition, or a good bit of money involved, then you need to decide.  Or should I say, you “get” to decide.

Exercising choice lets you find the best value, the best doctors, and the best procedure for your specific needs.  Also, the choice you make is a “vote” in the marketplace that encourages quality and value, and helps your fellow patients and consumers.

There are some big changes coming to how healthcare is paid for in this country, and some scenarios may ultimately leave us with bureaucrats making the decisions, and long waits for most services.  We are fortunate that in non-emergency situations today, most of us can shop around before purchasing medical services.  Exercise that right while you have it, as it is quite valuable.


To your health and wealth!

Wiley Long
President - HSA for America

P.S. – Next month we’ll review several ways to lower your medical expenses.


HSA for America
749 S. Lemay Ave, Suite A3-116
Fort Collins, CO 80524
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