Reduce health care costs by shopping around for the best price

reducing health care costs by shopping around

With out-of-pocket health care costs rising, more patients are going online to shop around for a better price. Image: Thinkstock

Health care costs can be expected to rise as reliably as the sun does every morning. People are used to shopping around for the best price on such things as airfare, groceries and consumer electronics. With more out-of-pocket costs for health care these days, shopping for doctors and hospitals makes more sense than ever.

Don’t take health care costs lying down

The costs of health care about to be incurred are traditionally not discussed when a person goes to a doctor or hospital. But the New York Times reports that is changing. According to the Center for Studying Health System Change, 15 percent of people younger than 65 are spending more than 5 percent of their annual income on health care costs. As they pay more out-of-pocket, more people aren’t obediently accepting what appear to be outrageous medical costs and are looking for a better price.

Why health care costs are so confusing

When it comes to health care costs, Michael Schroeder at Angie’s List said even experts get confused. Health care providers and insurance companies are in a battle in which doctors and hospitals try to mark prices up and insurers try to mark prices down. Insurance companies often rely on reimbursement standards established by Medicare. But a health care provider told Schroeder that it bills at an even higher rate than Medicare to reap maximum profit. Insurance companies will dicker the cost down, but uninsured patients don’t enjoy that support.

How to negotiate a better price

Fortunately, controlling medical costs by shopping for doctors and hospitals is easier with online tools. The Los Angeles Times reports that one of the best tools is simply a search engine. Kathy Kristof of the Times typed “cost of a colonoscopy” into Google and got about 200,000 matches. Sites that showed up included PriceDoc.com, MyMedicalCosts.com and HealthCareBlueBook.com. These sites provide critical information about average health care prices that patients can use to negotiate with doctors and hospitals for the best price on a treatment or procedure.

Sources

New York Times

Angie’s List

Los Angeles Times

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