Through blogs and comments, patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

In the Dark on Costs of Care

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'If gas stations worked like health care, you wouldn't find out until the pump switched off whether you paid $3 or $30 a gallon,' says Consumer Reports in That CT Scan Costs How Much?.'  With an overwhelming lack of consistency in pricing and billing transparency, CR notes that people have great challenges determining the costs of a health care test, procedure or treatment.

After a rise in her family's monthly premium, Suzanne Nesmith was forced to drop her insurance and look for alternative options. In the process, she learned of large variations in health care costs and that discounts are sometimes offered to people who self-pay. When her doctor recommended a colonoscopy, Suzanne called different facilities and was given a range of prices. After asking about discounts, 'I was told that I could arrange for a 50 percent discount if I would simply ask to pay (even as little as 1/4th payment) at the time of service."

Some think that cash discounts for health care aren't fair. ' Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Times tells about Jo Ann Snyder's frustration with the high costs of her CT scan: $2,336 with insurance. Snyder was upset because she would pay less if she didn't use her insurance: $1,054. Terhune writes that many people are unaware of these discounts for not using their insurance. According to the California Hospital Association, 'the discounted cash prices are intended for the uninsured, not those who have coverage.' However, this didn't make Snyder feel any better or help her pay the $2,336 bill, especially after paying her $700-a-month premiums.

It can be hard to make wise health care decisions without information on costs. 'But resistance from the medical community is fierce when it comes to revealing prices,' writes Trudy Lieberman. ' For example, in Florida, where public interest advocates pushed for a law that would require providers to post in their office reception area the costs of fifty common services, physicians balked and were ultimately let off the hook.

In a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation video, CFAH President Jessie Gruman says: 'Many of us are worried about the price of our health care, from how much we pay for our health plan to how much we are charged for a flu vaccine'And as the number of uninsured and underinsured people facing sizable out-of-pocket expenses grows, more of us find ourselves looking for price information to help decide whether we can afford to consult our doctor or pay for this test or that treatment.'  Or, if we must have the test or treatment, where we can find lower-priced options."

 

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Conversation Continues feature ongoing discussions or news on current health topics with links to related materials.  They are part of the Center for Advancing Health’s portfolio of free, evidence-based coverage of what it takes to find good care and make the most of it.


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