A recent article on the Angie’s List blog discussed the rapid growth rate of Americans in high-deductible health plans, with health savings accounts or strictly uninsured and their need to save on medical expenses. Especially after spending time in San Francisco last week at the Health 2.0 Conference, we are abundantly aware of trends towards consumer-driven plans where patients are becoming more responsible for managing their health care costs and decisions. We also know, that patients don’t WANT to be consuming health care services, they just want to feel better. Which is why we have provided these helpful steps to make price shopping easier.
1. Know Your Network
If you’re not sure if a physician’s office is considered in your network you should call your insurance provider. Be cautious though, because even in-network providers can have out-of- network doctors.
2. Don’t Call Around, Go Online
It will be hard to get any pricing let alone accurate pricing if you call around for prices and speak with different doctors’ offices. This is because often times the individual you are speaking with does not understand pricing any better than you do and will not take into account self-pay discounts, fees and other outliers. It is much easier to utilize a price transparency website like ours.
3. Compare Pricing
Don’t just get pricing from two competing providers and think that you have price-shopped. You must also take into consideration the average price in the region for that procedure, the self-pay prices at a few outpatient providers and at least one hospital provider.
4. High Cost Doesn’t Equal High Quality
Just because a hospital system or hospital-owned practice has more expensive services, it does not mean that you will get better attention or better care. Often times independent providers at outpatient centers have more personalized care and lower costs, so ask your friends where they have been, research outpatient options and ask your referring physicians for independent options for ancillary services.
5. Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
Negotiating is not just meant for used car lots. Providers do not want to be priced out of providing care to you because they are too expensive. If you are prepared with price shopping numbers, often times you can negotiate a better rate or discount.
6. Explore Payment Plans
You want to avoid medical debt, but you also don’t want to go without the care you need. Always ask if there are additional discounts you can receive by paying all at once for a service or if they have credit programs such as Care Credit, where you can set your own payment plan.
7. Always Double Check
Do not ever pay a health care bill without requesting a full summary of the services with pricing broken down, especially in the case of long-term stays at hospitals. It is just as important for you to understand the breakdown of your care costs as it is for you to understand the costs of everyday expenditures.
8. Manage Your Expenses
In the same way that you keep track of your regular expenses, track your health care expenses and be sure that you understand all of your charges. Simplee is a good program for this and they have some valuable resources for learning about health care expenses.
9. Spread the Savings
Tell your friends and family about price shopping tools you’ve found and let them know that they can find ways to save on medical expenses, no matter their health care coverage situation. It is important for people to know details about out-of-pocket expenses to make better spending decisions.