The high cost of health care in the U.S. has been able to hide safely out of public view. If you break your leg, for instance, do you know where to go for good care at a reasonable price? It’s that lack of transparency that allows some doctors to refuse insurance and charge shockingly high fees for a variety of treatments. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.
How to Find the Best Rates via Insurance Companies
America’s Health Insurance Plans reports some doctors charge nearly 100 times more than what Medicare pays for the same service in the same geographic area. That data came from the 30 largest states.
Here’s an example that screams, “Buyer beware!” A doctor in New York billed a patient $115,625 for lumbar spinal fusion. That was 62 times more than the Medicare fee of $1,867. And, the survey found examples of even worse price gouging.
Health insurance companies bargain with doctors and other health care providers for the lowest rates they can get. Most plans come with a network of providers. Some policies don’t pay anything if you need services from an out-of-network provider. Others pay a lower percentage of the bill from an out-of-network provider than for in-network charges.
To cash in on this, look for a policy that covers your doctors at in-network rates. To be prepared for the unknown, look for a plan with a big network of specialists. That way, if you eventually need a second opinion or a referral to a specialist, you’ll have more choices available at lower in-network rates. That minimizes your out-of-pocket costs.
What to Do If You Have to Get Out-of-network Services
Use a free service like Healthcare Blue Book to see what a reasonable price would be for the care you need. Since pricing follows regional patterns, check other cities when you need a “big-ticket” item. If you find much better pricing elsewhere and the patient safety stats are acceptable, it may be worth spending enough to travel away from home.
Whenever possible, ask what the service is going to cost, before you buy. Ask if you can get a discount for paying cash, particularly if it is an expense you will be paying from your HSA.
You can even hook up with international medical care through our website at http://www.HSAforAmerica.com/international-medical.htm. It’s been estimated that more than 500,000 of us leave the country every year to get medical treatment in another country. And, that cost can be up to 80 percent less than what you’d pay at home. With those savings, it may be worth the airfare.
Health insurance policies don’t even cover cosmetic surgery or dental treatment, so combining an exotic vacation with treatment in another country may be the answer. We make it easy for you to get information about this option from PlacidWay and PlanetHospital at http://www.HSAforAmerica.com/international-medical.htm.
Amanda Grace is a contributing author to HSA for America and an expert on Health Savings Accounts.