One of the most effective ways to reduce your medical bills is doing research on prices before treatment. I realize you may already have outstanding medical bills, but this post is very important for controlling your personal healthcare spending moving forward. Imagine knowing the market price before you walk in the door to a healthcare provider. You could use this knowledge to call out expensive prices.
Similar to how we shop around for deals on houses, cars, groceries, electronics, and just about everything we buy: Why isn’t this true for healthcare too? You may have an urge to go to the same doctor you have seen for years (and rely on the doctor’s referrals.) You may also have the urge to drive to the clinic that is close to your home and convenient. Resist these urges. You should shop around all of your options in-network, or if you are uninsured, call a number of providers to check the “self-pay/uninsured” price. Also remember that just because a doctor or clinic is in-network, does not mean that they are automatically the best value. The prices can vary in-network. Bottom line: shop around now!
Here are the main reasons people do not shop around for healthcare. First, people assume that medical procedures cost the same across the board. That is FAR from true. Second, people do not view healthcare as a commodity, or economic good. Rather, people view healthcare as a required (expensive) cost of life. Change your mindset now. You have a huge say in how much your healthcare will cost over the span of your life. Third, we place too much trust in healthcare providers. Doctors make money too. The hospital and insurance companies turn a profit. Healthcare is a business. Also, there is a HUGE lack of transparency and communication in healthcare. Doctors and healthcare providers can rarely tell you how much something is going to cost up front. That is ridiculous. Where else in our world does this happen?
Here is the deal, you must take control of the situation and be an active consumer in healthcare. You must do your homework and ask questions because you are going to pay yourself for it with savings!
For starters, you need to understand your insurance before you go to any healthcare provider. What does it cover? What is your responsibility to pay after insurance has paid? Your insurance company likely already has online tools to help. If not, call your insurance company and ask where the best value in-network healthcare provider is for the care you need. Finally, always ask if you can go “outpatient” for any surgeries. Some types of surgeries do not require an overnight stay at an expensive hospital. If less expensive outpatient options are available and approved by your doctor, pursue them aggressively.
I highly recommend the Healthcare Bluebook for price comparison-shopping. The website is free and regularly updated. I also highly recommend NerdWallet’s hospital checker where you can see average prices and a review rating of the hospital.
Finally, I also recommend New Choice Health’s Shopping and Comparison tool.
Once you have a list of the providers for your care, call the providers to confirm the pricing quotes you gathered. Get the names of the people you talked to and the information they give you so that you can reference it if you do decide to go with that provider. I also recommend using the Healthcare Bluebook’s “Fair Price Agreement” to negotiate your price before you even receive treatment. Search for your procedure in your area and print out the sample agreement. Have your provider agree to a price with you before you enter treatment. While your provider may not sign the agreement, they will usually consider a discount now that they know you are an educated patient. It is always better to be informed going into the appointment!
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