Shopping for Health Care

 

The rising costs of health care in the U.S. is nothing new. The steady yet steep increases have been ongoing for well over ten years. Health insurance has, also, been changing rapidly leading to pricier premiums and causing out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles to be higher than ever. According to the Commonwealth Fund, in 2003 about half of all employer-based insurance plans had deductibles with the average deductible being $518 for a single person. Credit Card Computer OriginalOnly ten years later, in 2013, 81 percent of plans had a deductible with an average that exponentially increased to $1,273. All these changes in health insurance mean that Americans, regardless of whether they are insured or not, have higher health care costs which they are struggling to manage. More individuals than ever are starting to ask how they can get a better price on medical care similar to the way in which they ask how to get a better price on plane flights and hotel rooms. A new study, done by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), shows a need for more price and quality transparency in the health care industry. If those two things are readily available to the consumer, then they will be able to shop for the most reasonably priced medical care like they do with most other purchases they make.

Comparison shopping can save you money on your medical care whether you are insured or not. With the high deductibles that many insured individuals have it’s very possible that if you needed an x-ray or an MRI you could end up paying for the whole thing out-of-pocket. If that’s the case, then it is most definitely worth it to shop around for the lowest price on a procedure your insurance won’t cover. Those procedures that are increasingly becoming the full responsibility of patients with high deductible plans are actually the procedures that tend to be the most shoppable. It is eminently possible to find low-cost, high-quality MRIs, ultrasounds, x-rays, and minimally invasive surgeries such as LASIK eye surgery through price comparison shopping. Outpatient surgery centers, urgent care clinics, and stand-alone imaging centers tend to be much less expensive compared to hospitals and offer lower rates for those patients who plan to pay at the time of service. To take advantage of this, there has been a growing number of websites such as ZendyHealth that display procedure rates to encourage comparison shopping among consumers so that they can save substantially on their medical care.

 

How to Shop for Health Care

When shopping for health care, it is tremendously important to keep both quality and price in mind. If you do the research necessary, then it is possible to find the lowest-cost and highest-quality providers out there. Try some of these steps to learn how to be a better health care shopper:

  1. If you have insurance and plan to use it, make yourself familiar with the providers in your network. If the providers in your network don’t compare price-wise or quality-wise to providers that aren’t in your network, then it might be better to not use your insurance for that particular procedure especially if you will be paying out-of-pocket either way.
  2. Use one of the many online tools that provide cost estimates and the ability to compare prices. With ZendyHealth you can view average costs for procedures, compare discounted prices with those average costs, and make bids on those procedures based on what you can afford. Unlike many other price comparison tools, ZendyHealth prioritizes quality transparency right alongside price transparency.
  3. Whenever you are using an online price estimator or price comparison tool, it’s smart to double check the rates listed with the provider directly. When paying at the time of service, you need to be sure that what you budgeted for the procedure will be what you are actually charged.
  4. If you are still unsure as to what is covered in your plan or what would go towards your deductible with the procedure you are shopping for then you can confirm all those things with your insurer. They can help you determine whether it’s best to pay out-of-pocket for lower cash rates or if it will be more beneficial to go a different route. An informed decision is necessary when both your health and your finances are involved.
  5. Don’t forget there are considerations other than price you must consider when shopping for health services or medical procedures. You must always balance cost with the quality of care.

 

It may seem like shopping for health care will take a fair bit of time. That may be true but you’d be surprised how quickly it turns into a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it will seem silly that you ever approached health services from a different vantage point than this one. ZendyHealth and many other web companies like it are trying to fill the price and quality information gap in the medical and health industries so that all who need health care will have access to it.

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