How Comparing Health Costs Can Save You Money

No one wants to hear their doctor tell them they are going to need additional medical procedures, especially if they are uninsured. Talk about a day-ruiner.  When asked how much they thought a procedure like an MRI would cost them, most patients guessed around $4,000. That guess isn’t far off at some care providers, but we’re here to tell you that there are affordable options.

Uninsured radiology costsYour health is one of the most important things though, so no one wants to skimp on cost when their care is in question. The good news is that in healthcare, cost isn’t reflective of quality. Now this does complicate the consumer process, but if you know to shop around for more affordable options and take control of your care, you can save up to 80% on your procedures.

Let’s say your general practitioner recommends that you get an X-Ray of your ankle to determine if you broke it or simply sprained it. Your physician sends you next door to the hospital-owned imaging center, where they tell you your x-ray is going to cost about $200 out-of-pocket. They also inform you that there will likely be another bill headed your way a little while later for the radiologist’s “reading fee.”

When it’s all said and done, that x-ray could cost you as much as $350, just to confirm that you did in fact just sprain your ankle. Walking and talking at the same time can be hard sometimes, but who knew it could be that expensive!

Now, if you chose to shop around and compare x-ray costs at various imaging centers in your city, rather than simply going to the first suggestion for care, you would likely find an independent, outpatient imaging center with much lower rates. Why can those radiology providers offer such lower prices without sacrificing the quality of their care?

  1. They are able provide more personalized service since it’s in an outpatient setting
  2. They likely have on-site radiologists or a partnered physician group that reads for them
  3. They have more control of their costs
X-Ray Costs in Tampa, Florida

X-Ray Costs in Tampa, Florida

An x-ray of an ankle in Tampa, Florida for instance could cost up to $275 but our self-pay rates are between $75-$90 with no additional fees.  Think of all the money you could save yourself!

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Infographic: Radiology Facts

 

 

In the words of our marketing team; “These are like Snapple facts but better!”

Don’t tell us radiology facts aren’t fun. We put together this infographic sharing some random factoids about the diagnostic imaging industry. Some of these things, even we didn’t know! Now go forth and impress all your friends with your newfound radiology trivia prowess… Diagnostic Imaging Radiology Facts Feel free to share this infographic with your own followers!

 

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Real Patients Need Real Prices

With consumerism in healthcare on the rise and an increased focus on price transparency for health costs, our industry is looking at patients more and more as consumers. There are two real problems with that, one being that the way patients shop for health services is completely different than the way they shop for goods and the other being that each and every patient has their own unique situation based on their needs, their location and their coverage. Due to these factors, we are required to look at patients as people rather than consumers.

Some patients struggle to identify themselves as consumers in the health care shopping process, whether it is out of confusion, frustration or disinterest. Changes brought about by The Affordable Care Act however, have led people to take a more active role in comparing and selecting their care providers. With prices varying so much from state-to-state, city-to-city and even provider-to-provider however, it becomes seriously challenging for patients to know what is fair in terms of costs for procedures.

Our goal is to help reach out to real people so they can find real costs, not just estimates. When patients are relying solely on guesses to what their total will be versus a true price, they can end up with steep bills in the thousand-dollar range. No one likes those. Scouring the Twitter-sphere, trying to gain some real insight on how patients are reacting to health care costs, we realized a surprising amount of people using the social media forum as a sounding board to air their grievances with health costs. So we thought, we might as well answer their questions!

Steep MRI prices

Steep MRI prices don’t have to ruin your day!

 

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Dr. Jon Cohen on Consumerism in Health Care

We’re going into the vaults this week to bring back a TEDMED Video from 2012, where Dr. Jon Cohen, the CMO of Quest Diagnostics, discusses the nature of consumerism in health care. He makes a great analogy comparing the way Americans shop for their televisions to the way we “shop” for our doctors. He jokes about his friend shopping for a new HD-TV, reading online forums and review sites, learning about pixel sizes and external ports, asking him, “When did you get your PhD in TV’s?” He goes on to explain that once his friend finally selected the model he wanted to purchase, that he couldn’t simply buy the TV and move on. No, his friend needed to go to a few more stores to ensure that he got the best price on that TV.

Now, the average 50” HD TV is going to cost somewhere between $500 and $1,000, which is comparable to the cost of an MRI in Tampa, Florida, depending on where you would go for the procedure. So why wouldn’t you shop around for the MRI the same way you’d shop for your next TV?

“Did you know that the average American spends twice as much time researching what TV to buy than deciding which physician to choose?”

Cohen points out that shopping for a television is the ultimate consumer experience because it relies on three important components; the price of the product or service, its level of quality and the consumer’s desire for the product or service. Consumer-driven healthcare, on the other hand, is not so simple. The idea that consumerism in healthcare would lower costs was reliant on patients spending wisely, but it isn’t working out that way for a number of reasons.

First of all, it’s normally assumed that price is a reflection of value, however the concept of value in health care is not easily recognized. Cohen says for instance that you should be able to discern the difference in value between a $20,000 car versus an $80,000 car. When it comes to diagnosing and treating patients however, two physicians could be paid the same amount, while one could have given the appropriate prescription and the other could have misdiagnosed the same patient.

The next issue is that the quality of a physician is very subjective, making it hard to tell the difference between Dr. A and Dr. B. Some patients judge a physician based on topical things like convenient parking, comfortable waiting rooms or even having snacks available. Cohen points out that these things are really more of a judgment of the practice’s level of service, rather than quality. He says that quality in medicine is truly an indication of experience and good judgment; unfortunately there are no consumer reports for patients to look up those metrics.

Lastly and probably most importantly, consumerism requires a certain level of consumer desire. Patients simply don’t want to have to spend their hard earned dollars on health care. Cohen said that out of a group of physicians surveyed, less than 50% had gotten their colonoscopy screenings, even after their organizations tried incentivizing them with $5,000 bonuses if they went in for their stress test, colonoscopy and annual physical.

He says that really, the only case where patients actively shop around for affordable medical procedures is when they are getting cosmetic surgery because it’s something they truly want and can see the quality of the results. Intense desire trumps all barriers, showing that if someone wants something badly enough, they are willing to go out of their way to find a deal.

 

You can watch the full video of Dr. Cohen’s speech here:

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37 Stages of Reading Medical Bills

You’re leaving the hospital after spending an hour getting an MRI. You’re already annoyed that you just spent your lunch hour in a tube, lying perfectly still to the sounds of what can only be described as MRI Techno Tunes. Or would that be considered dub step?

2. You think of all the things you could buy with $60.

3. You bitterly realize you’ll need to eat Ramen noodles this week for dinner if you want to also fill up your gas tank.

4. You drive home feeling sad and a little taken advantage of.

5. Fast-forward three months….

6. You check your mail hoping for this month’s Birchbox or at least a J.Crew catalogue to flip through.

7. Nope, instead you’re gifted with an ominous looking letter from your area hospital.

8. You hesitantly open the envelope, hoping it’s a “Thank You” letter for choosing them for your MRI.

9. Incorrect, it is a bill.

10. Didn’t I already pay for this?

11. Choke on your own breath.

12. $1,300 dollars?!

Medical Bills

Expensive Medical Bills (From Costs of Care)

13. You have to live on the streets.

14. You have to sell your car.

15. Why do you even have insurance?

16. This cannot possibly be correct.

17. This bill must have been meant for someone else; some other person by the same name as you with the same Social Security number and address.

18. Anger sets in.

19. You’re blinded by rage.

20. Who can you call to complain to about this?

21. Ghostbusters seems like the obvious choice, but ultimately ineffective.

22. AH-HA! You have found an 800 number to call.

23. You feel sorry for the wrath that is about to be unleashed on this poor unsuspecting victim.

24. Wait; are you not calling the hospital? What is this company you’ve never heard of?

25. “How many buttons do I have to press to talk to a human?”

26. Success!  You have trudged through the robot phone tree to speak with an actual live being.

27. Who is this foreign person you’re speaking with?

28. “Did I not Press 1 for English?”

29. Why would your hospital hire a billing company that is not based in America?

30. “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.”

31. You finally learn that your insurance company only covered part of the cost for your MRI and THIS heartbreaking bill is what you’re now responsible for paying.

32. Your knee doesn’t even hurt anymore… but your wallet does.

33. There is a good chance you’re going to have a heart attack right now.

34. You’ll probably need another MRI if you do actually go into cardiac arrest though.

35. Couldn’t there have been a cheaper way for all of this to go down?

36. Oh wait, you could have saved 50% if you had just paid out-of-pocket and booked your MRI through Save On Medical?

37. “Now you tell me.”

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