What You Need to Know to Find Affordable Health Care Services
Posted Apr 06 2009 11:15pm
How much does an MRI of the brain
cost? What would I pay for a CT-scan? What provider offers the best price
for an ultrasound?
Every week you shop for goods/services, and make
choices based on what is a “good value.” When
you make these purchase decisions, you use the skills you have (without even thinking
about it) to find the best value. The
same rules apply when you are trying to make the most of your healthcare dollars. It
doesn’t matter if you are shopping for prescription medications, durable medical equipment,
providers, diagnostic tests or vaccinations. Obviously
in an emergency situation these rules do not apply, but for routine service you need
to put on your consumer hat and apply some simple rules. If
you do not follow these rules, you will end up overpaying for services. Our
healthcare system charges consumers up to 300% more for the exact same service and
if you aren’t informed there’s a good change you will overpay. Would
you rather spend less on healthcare and more on family vacations?
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Three things you need to remember when shopping for
health care services:
around. Apply your consumer-savvy
skills to comparison shop and find out what other consumers paid for similar services. Providers
charge hundreds of different prices for the exact same service. Make
sure you find the best price and get the best value. Talk
to other consumers and find out where people went for services and what they thought
of the provider. Were the prices fair?
lots of questions. Don’t be afraid
to ask providers and your insurance plan questions like “how much will this service
cost me? “ Ask friends, family, community
groups where they would go to get the best value for a specific service/treatment.
Information can be powerful.
resources available. Make the most
of tools available to you via websites, insurance plans, health content sites, community
sites and blogs. If your health insurance
plan provides cost estimator tools, be sure to check these out. They are not always
meaningful, but worth looking into. The
more you know, the better informed you will be. For
me the most effective way to get actual prices is to call the insurance plan and the
provider directly and ask them how much this service will cost me. You
can also use websites that provide pricing to understand what others paid for similar
services. Most importantly, don’t be
afraid to ask for a price and if necessary, as for a discount.
Globe Spotlight Team reported on a story about pricing discrepancies in our healthcare
system. They obtained actual private
insurance data in their research to
analyze provider prices for the exact same service and compared these prices with
providers in Massachusetts. Here’s a
summary of what they found: