Three health care tools that will save you money
How to use price-shopping tools
Have you ever tried to price-shop for your health care? While consumers are usually familiar with doing so when it comes to buying most goods and services, health care has been different.
Typically, it has been really hard, if not impossible, to get an accurate sense of what health care visits and services will cost you ahead of time. Health care pricing has traditionally been very opaque, but as deductibles keep rising, consumers are paying for more and more of their own care. As a result, consumers are increasingly trying to find cost and quality information before they schedule a surgery or pick up a prescription.
Fortunately, new tools are available to make this process easier. While shopping for health care still isn’t as simple as running a quick search on Amazon, there are some websites and apps that can give you a general sense of what you might expect to pay. Let’s review three popular health care price-shopping tools — Healthcare Bluebook, MDSave and GoodRx.
This Nashville-based company conducts vast health care economic research to determine fair prices for health care services nationwide. By entering your zip code and searching for common procedures — think surgeries, imaging, lab work and more — you can find an estimated “fair price” for that service in your area.
Consumers in Nashville have access to some additional Healthcare Bluebook features, too. The site also shows quality rankings based on outcomes and other quality data to allow consumers to make an even more informed decision.
For example, if a hospital has very good outcomes and average prices, most consumers would likely consider it good value. But if it had very high prices and average or low outcomes, many consumers may think that it might not provide enough value to patients.
Healthcare Bluebook gives consumers better insight into which facilities in the area are likely to charge more and which are likely to charge less.
Another Middle Tennessee-based health care transparency company is MDSave, which allows consumers to price shop and actually pay for their procedure ahead of time at a predetermined price.
For example, let’s say you need an abdominal MRI. If you search for this on MDSave, the estimated national average price is $1,597, with the MDSave average listed as $651.
Then, you can actually see area providers and their price. For example, an MRI with contrast at Premier Radiology on Charlotte Avenue is listed at $900, while one at Saint Thomas River Park Hospital in McMinnville is listed at $391.
You can actually purchase the procedure and book an appointment directly through MDSave. This tool can result in significant cost-savings for consumers who will be paying for their care out-of-pocket, such as uninsured consumers or those with high deductibles.
One thing consumers with high deductibles should consider is that MDSave procedures may not count toward your deductible. Consumers can download a deductible application checklist from MDSave, and their insurance company will make a determination.
This tool allows consumers to price-shop prescriptions. By searching for a prescription drug, GoodRx will share prices and coupon discounts across national pharmacies.
For example, if you search for the cholesterol drug Lipitor, Kroger Pharmacy has the cheapest estimated price of $9.78. On the other end of the spectrum, Rite Aid’s price is listed as $42.75.
GoodRx allows consumers to actually print off free drug coupons, which can be taken to local pharmacies. While coupon prices are not guaranteed, this can be a good tool
This column was originally published in The Tennessean.
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