The futility of “You get what you pay for” in healthcare

It started as a normal health conversation. I was talking to someone I knew who just got her license (like a prescription) for medical marijuana. She was talking about how great her doctor was, and how I should see him.

I had just started the process to get a license myself. I pointed out that I had already seen a doctor and I wasn’t about to see another. She said I should see hers when I have to renew my license (in 6 months, per state law.) I pointed out that my doctor is cheaper. And that’s when she said it.

You get what you pay for.

I was stunned. First, that’s obviously not always true. My smartphone, for example, was one of the cheaper ones out there, but it’s been running perfectly for 2.5 years. I have plenty of friends with phones that cost twice as much that haven’t lasted as long, or with shorter battery lives. More expensive is not always better.

But more than that, she knows about my financial situation. So even if she’s right, why would she suggest that I spend an extra $100-200 per year unnecessarily? How insensitive!

To be fair, I don’t think she fully understood what she was saying. She became unable to work before she ever reached the age to work. But at a young age she also moved in with the man she later married. He has a good job that easily supports them both. Funds aren’t unlimited, but they take the occasional trip overseas, have 2 dogs, live in a nice apartment, and can afford extras that help her health-wise like massage appointments and laundry service. That’s the only adult life she’d ever known.

So she doesn’t know what it’s like to know that every penny you spend is being pulled out of limited savings. She doesn’t know the fear that if you spend too much, you will run out of money, and then what?

I shook off that comment. I was too surprised to coherently answer, and I knew it wouldn’t matter anyway. Still….

You get what you pay for.

Maybe she’s right? I’ve thought about it a lot in the last two days. Maybe I should have seen that other doctor. In theory, I got what I needed: the license. But her doctor did sound helpful. He gave her personalized advice: which strains of cannabis to buy, how much to take, etc. Then again, it’s too soon to know if his advice was accurate. Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn’t. Maybe my doctor’s more generalized advice will turn out to have been more useful.

In 6 months I will need to decide if I should see the same doctor I already saw, or try hers. I’m not sure what I’ll do. What I do know is that line rubbed me the wrong way.

People are constantly offering suggestions of things that will help my health: acupuncture, massage, Alexander Technique, etc. Many of these will and have helped – but who’s offering to pay for them? No one!

So from now on, I think that will be my response. When someone says, “You get what you pay for” or “You should try X” (and of course X isn’t covered by insurance) I’m just going to say:

Are you offering to pay? Thanks! I’d love to try that!

What about you? Have you encountered comments like these? What do you say? Please comment below! I’d love to know!

5 Responses to The futility of “You get what you pay for” in healthcare

  1. I would be a little leery of using a doctor who will prescribe based on what a patient can pay. There are doctors who will be prescribe anything their patients ask for, needed or not, simply because they have money. I have a co-worker who comes from money and will get her doctor to prescribe unnecessary tests simply because she likes the attention. She even had surgery on one of her feet so that her shoes would fit better! Her doctor only takes very rich, very demanding patients, and I’m not sure he has their best interests in mind healthwise.

  2. seachy says:

    I feel sorry for you with these comments, are you in the UK or the USA? I do not fully understand the insurance system in the US but even in the UK we are now are getting all these alternative types of treatments not funded by our NHS and they cost a fortune. Yes there are some people fortunate enough to be able to try everything and anything but having spent all of my families savings and now my retirement pot on adjustments to our home (meaning my wife can no longer afford to reduce her hours to care for me) there is no more money to try all these weird and wonderful treatments. My pain means I’d try literally anything for some relief, my wallet laughs in my face though each month as every penny is accounted for!
    Oh for a lottery win!

    • chronicrants says:

      I’m sorry to hear that seachy. I’m in the U.S. Like you, a lot of medical treatment is covered by insurance (and I’m thankful to have insurance!) but many other treatments are simply not covered. It would be an entirely different situation if they were. But since I have to pay for things like cannabis and massage from my own wallet, it definitely affects what I will and won’t do.

  3. Deb D says:

    Yes, to a point. Having been in the medical cannabis program in Oregon since 2009, I can tell you there are not many doctors with a lot of knowledge. Since “regular” docs are scared off “recommending” because of the DEA, most of the clinic docs are not too discriminating knowing they are recommending a controversial treatment. One doc in Portland is very knowledgeable and gives great info, others just do the state-required records review and a very cursory exam, then they sign the forms. Most of the dispensary people and staff are VERY knowledgeable regarding strains, treatments, etc. In my opinion you get the cheapest available to get your card (they all get approved by the same people at the state) and learn as you go on your own. Frustrating but true. After a few months you will be more on truthful info than almost everyone you meet. I also marvel at how most people do not understand what limited resources really means…Good luck.

    • chronicrants says:

      Thanks for your perspective, Deb D! That’s my plan, too – pay as little up front as possible, then figure it out as I go along. Hopefully it’ll all work out in the end. I hope the program has been useful for you!

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