By
President
HSA for America

Medical Pricing Gone Wild:
How You Can
Come Out on Top

June 1, 2014
Vol. 10, Issue 6


Never in consumer history has price transparency been so blatantly ignored as it is in the health care industry. You would never expect to purchase a big-ticket item before knowing the cost, yet this practice is commonly accepted in health care. Here’s how you can take action and play an active role in controlling your medical costs and maximize your hard-earned HSA dollars.

At HSA for America, we believe in consumer-driven health care to help keep medical costs down and keep more of your money in your pocket - where it belongs. You may feel that asking about the cost of care in advance is inappropriate, insulting, or just plain tacky. The bottom line is that it’s your money paying for it, and you have every right to know how much it’s going to cost.

Consumers on the Hook for Increased Medical Costs

Now more than ever, consumers are facing higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. I wouldn’t expect to walk into many medical facilities    any time soon and see a list of medical procedures with the cost posted beside it, and a recent Washington Post article showed that only 3 out of 20 hospitals could even quote a price for a self-pay patient for a simple test to measure heart rate.

How to Stretch Health Care Dollars

How can you control your medical costs? Whether you have a health savings account or not, the first step is to ask questions before seeking medical care - that is, as long as it’s not an emergency. You’re responsible for any deductible amount before your insurance pays, so it’s in your best interest to seek the best care at the most affordable price.

Even if you plan on choosing a provider in your insurance network, each individual provider and facility has negotiated a contracted rate with the insurance company, and these rates can vary dramatically. Here’s one example of how rates can vary:

“I injured my ankle a year ago, and my first instinct was to go directly to the emergency room. Of course I was splinted and told to follow up with a specialist. My ER bill was over $3,000. The hospital emergency room’s contracted rate for a set of ankle x-rays was over $400. When my orthopedist repeated the x-rays several weeks later, his contracted rate with my insurance company for the same set of ankle x-rays was under $100!”

----James Moon
Georgia

Some insurance companies offer online tools to access health care costs and determine exactly what your out-of-pocket cost will be. This allows you to choose where to receive your services and how much you are willing to pay.

These online tools are accessible not only for office services but also for surgical procedures and diagnostic imaging including CT scans and MRIs. Some offices and facilities also have these negotiated rates readily available, all you have to do is ask.

Where to Find the Best Health Care Deals

Simply going online or making several phone calls before scheduling an appointment could save you hundreds of dollars. Using specialists’ offices, urgent care clinics and outpatient surgery centers over hospital facilities and emergency rooms are also great money savers. Few people realize that most specialists’ offices, such as orthopedists, offer 24-hour emergency service, which could help you avoid costly emergency room visits.

By maximizing your HSA contributions, you’ll have tax-free dollars tucked away to give you the leverage you need to negotiate lower prices. As the old saying goes - money talks! Learn more about how you can make your HSA work for you by reading our blog.

How to Contribute to the Price Transparency Effort

Don’t feel intimidated by medical professionals when it comes to discussing cost. Just as you would discuss your treatment options, you should also discuss the cost of each option. For example, it’s possible that an older, generic medication may work just as effectively as a newer, name-brand medication and save you money in the process.

There is much discussion in Washington D.C. about price transparency right now. Stay informed of potential legislation at the national and local level - make your vote count and contact lawmakers when you have the opportunity to let your voice be heard. You can protect your wallet by demanding prices be publicly available to consumers at all medical facilities, giving you the final say before signing on the dotted line!


To your health and wealth!


"Relaxing with Christie"

Wiley Long
President - HSA for America

 

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