For some reason people are willing to buy the services of healthcare while rarely asking what anything costs. Outside of the corruption and power grab of insurance companies, I’m not sure how this one industry is allowed to be so mysterious, I suppose it’s because when it comes to life and the ability to continue it, we partly don’t care. Fix it, make it better, take care of the booboo right now. But one of the best ways for us to drive down healthcare costs is to start asking the price. Start demanding better prices. Starting checking into the competition and saying, “hey, I can drive 20 miles west and get this for $2000 less. What can you do for me?” Insurance companies were touted as doing this for us, keeping costs down. But somewhere along the way they instead partnered with hospitals to mutually drive up prices and game the system. Insurance companies are not working in the patient’s best interest anymore. It’s time for the consumer, the patient, to step up and look out for themselves.
There are a growing number of ways for the average person to start doing this.
1. If you’re going to need a procedure, call around to check prices. Because of the ways different places can bundle their pricing information its often hard to compare apples to apples. So first try to get the billing code from your doctor about what procedure you’ll have. Then ask providers to price those codes. Don’t forget to find out if the price includes all facility, doctor, anesthesia fees.
2. Look at places like the surgery center of Oklahoma for total cost packages for various procedures. Start using sites like that to ask your more local provider why their price is so much higher than this oklahoma factility. Tell them you can get a plane ticket for a few hundred dollars and still save thousands over using them, ask them to consider a reduction in price.
3. Ask them if they offer self-pay discounts, cash discounts, up front payment discounts, etc. If you still have regular insurance it can sometimes be cheaper to not run the procedure through insurance at all, just pay cash. For Samaritan members we do this anyway because we are self pay and thus can sometimes get discounts even better than insurance has negoitated. Sometimes not. It depends on the facility.
The point is there’s no reason to accept the first price they shoot you, especially if it sounds high. You’re probably being quoted the chargemaster rate, their list price, which almost no one pays unless they are being taken advantage of. Paying for your own healthcare is a lot closer to buying a car when you don’t have insurance companies in the mix. It’s negotiable. By keeping insurance companies out of it you are saving the hospital paperwork, headaches, and time. They can reward you for this with lower costs. Ask for it. Be polite, but don’t take their chargemaster rate and don’t take the first no as firm. Ask for the supervisor. Explain how you can help them get paid faster.
If enough of us start asking these questions and comparing services between facilities we can eventually drive down the cost.
One of my favorite sites for learning about how to do this is called selfpaypatient.com It’s a great blog, with a new book out by the author. Tons of info which is useful to members of healthcare sharing ministries and those who are just completely uninsured/uncovered.