One of the ideas behind the spread of health-saving accounts combined with high-deductible insurance is that it will make consumers more aware of what health care actually costs and they will make more responsible choices. One problem is that it can be very difficult to compare the costs of different health-care providers.
I don’t have an HSA but I do have high-deductible health insurance. This works fine for me since I rarely go to a doctor. A couple of years ago when I needed to go to a doctor though I wanted to find the one that charged the least for an office visit since I knew all the expense would come out of my pocket. Trying to find out the price of an office visit wasn’t easy. Most would just answer “it depends”. I finally went to an urgent care facility that wasn’t cheap but much less expensive than an emergency room visit and probably comparable to a doctor’s office visit. If there was any premium over an office visit the ability to come in without an appointment made up for that. I told them up front that I would be paying out of pocket and I’d like to keep the cost down. The price for an office visit was fixed but they did hold off on ordering a lab that I probably wouldn’t need(and I didn’t) which saved me a little money.
It is somewhat easier to comparison shop today. There is a website Nahdo.org that will let you search cost data by state. Knowing what the average cost for a procedure in your region is makes it easier to haggle. It still will probably require a lot of phone calls though.
It would be cheaper for me to make an office visit today also. I can get one for free at my school. If I wasn’t in school the proliferation Minute-clinics and their similar competitors makes it cheaper and easier to go in for a simple office visit. If you need something more involved though you can save considerable money through haggling. Of course, you don’t want price to be the only concern when it comes to health care.
1 thought on “Haggling for Health Care”
Finding a good doc is hard enough, not even looking at insurance and co-pay costs. One-stop health centers are part of the answer for some people, perhaps, but they don’t lead to the kind of comprehensive care and physician/patient relationship that is part and parcel to excellent medical care.