Looking for the best deal is so common in most aspects of our lives. We do that at Walmart, online stores, car dealerships, clothing stores, furniture stores and even the grocery store. We look for coupons and sales, and make deals with salesmen. But shopping around for health care is just not that common for most people and it’s because of the insurance culture we were raised in. With insurance paying the tab we cared only about the copay and didn’t ever ask how much the tests cost and our way to save money on medicine was to ask if there was a generic option (a great first step). We forget that in many areas we can get our tests done at more than one location and that prices can vary a lot. We often don’t realize that the exact same medication can be wildly more expensive at one pharmacy versus another in the same town. We just don’t pay attention because we were conditioned not to ask. Pay the copay and walk out the door. Deal with the shocking consequences of deductibles later.
This habit needs to change and members of health care sharing ministries have learned (or are learning) how to become great health care shoppers. With the bills coming to us first and because we want to save the ministry’s members as much money as possible we are asking questions, shopping around and finding the deals we didn’t know existed. Schools have a desperate need to teach financial management skills to highschoolers and I am adding health care shopping to my list of curriculum wants. It’s going to take millions of us asking around to get the culture changed. I recently read of a fellow Samaritan Ministries member who got a cash discount from the hospital for an MRI, but didn’t accept it as low enough so he went shopping around. He found an imaging clinic who offered him a rate 65% cheaper than what the hospital offered. Same service. The amount will be shared by Samaritan members, so he just saved all of us several hundred dollars by making a couple extra phone calls. That is awesome. We need to do this whenever we can. Ask around, shop around, find the deals. They’re out there and the health care industry isn’t going to turn the corner on costs until we can show each facility they are not the only game in town.
If you aren’t sure whether the price you are being quoted is appropriate, use a service like the healthcarebluebook.com to see what insurance is paying for the same service in your area. It at least gives you a starting point. Happy shopping!