Lab tests are expensive, and can often cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of your pocket, until you reach your deductible. But if you are a smart consumer, you will opt-out of the expensive retail pricing on lab tests, and go straight to the labs for direct wholesale pricing. Here's how to do that.
Be an Intelligent Consumer
In last month's Maximize Your HSA I wrote about being the CEO of your own healthcare. In the past people thought of physicians as authority figures, and tended to follow the doctor's orders without questioning why. But Health Savings Accounts are what has been termed Consumer Driven healthcare, and when you are in the driver's seat, you get to make the decisions.
Lab testing is a very high profit center for most doctors' offices, with markups of 300% to 500% being typical. But it is important to remember that your doctor is a consultant who works for you. You pay the doctor for information and advice, but you are under no moral obligation to blindly follow that advice. And that is particularly relevant advice when it comes to choosing where to get your lab testing done.
Discounts on Lab Tests
Most consumers are unaware that they can order their own medical tests directly through the lab, and bypass the expensive middle-man. One of the more common tests that your doctor probably orders when you have a routine physical is what's called a Comprehensive Wellness Profile (CWP). This is a standard group of tests which provides blood lipid information (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc), information on white blood cells (indicating an infection), red blood cells (which can show signs of anemia, leukemia, and other disorders), a measurement of liver enzymes, glucose levels, and more.
The retail price for a CWP is $529, but with the right connections you can get this done for $97.
My Own Experience
Long-time readers know that I also promote the Paleo Diet. Briefly, the idea is to eat a diet similar to that which our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten - meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, and nuts - and avoiding the foods that are newer to humanity, such as grains, dairy, vegetable oils, and processed sugars.
When I was first learning about the science behind this concept, I decided to do my own experiment. I went to a lab and had my blood lipids checked before doing a trial run of eating this way. One month later I had the test done again, and the results were pretty astounding.
The most dramatic changes were my HDL (good cholesterol), and my triglycerides. My HDL jumped from 48 to 74 (a 54% increase), and my triglycerides dropped from 123 - 64 (a 47% decrease). And my ratio of Triglycerides: HDL dropped from 2.56 to 0.86, with some experts considering anything under 1.0 to be ideal.
You Are In Control
If I had had to schedule and pay for a doctor's office visit, and pay full retail for these two tests, I would have spent hundreds of dollars - and I wouldn't have done it. Instead, I spent less than $100, and got valuable information that has enabled me to take better care of my own health.
So do not be intimidated to let your doctor know that you will be having your lab work done independently. Simply explain that because you have a high-deductible HSA plan, you are careful about how you spend your healthcare dollars, and are always looking out for the best value.
HSA for America Additional Benefit: Discount Lab Testing
HSA for America has long recommended using a discount lab testing service to save money on medical tests. We have just negotiated an agreement with a testing company that we believe provides better rates and better service than the company we used to recommend. Not only do you get wholesale pricing on blood tests, but also expensive radiological scans such as CAT scans, MRIs, and PET Scans.
To access this benefit, visit our Additional Benefits page. And when you do use this service, please give me feedback on how it went for you. It is important to me that we recommend services and resources that provide quality service and make it easy for you to save money.
Always remember that it is your health, and the physicians and other healthcare providers work for you. Don't ever hesitate to shop, to negotiate, and to try to get the best value possible.
P.S. - Next month, I'm going to share a story illustrating why I believe a stand-alone accident plan is such a great way to buffer a high deductible health insurance plan.