Giving health care consumers control of costs; new web sites help the public find affordable care.

Giving health care consumers control of costs; new web sites help the public find affordable care.

New web sites are now available that help consumers shop for medical procedures. Many of us are used to visiting our doctors, getting a referral for the procedure we were told we need, evaluating our schedule or lifestyle accomodations to having the procedure done and then having it done, knowing the costs were kept affordable by our health plans. Up until a few years ago, this worked well for most of us.

As many of us noticed, each year, our insurance costs have increased, along with our share of the responsibility for our share of the cost. In other words, instead of the cost of our care having a small maximum per day for either the procedure or the in patient experience in the hospital, many of us now have plans with high deductibles of $1500 or more with the hopes our insurance plan negotiated a reasonable cost for what we were going to have done. Some of us now are in HSA plans which have fewer restrictions to care but have an amount of cash in an account we can either use for our care or place in our retirement plan if it was not used.

This created the rise of the underinsured. Most people have difficulty with these out of pocket costs putting them in debt, one of the major reasons we should have a single payer system which would control the costs. As people find themselves in more control of their healthcare dollars, they also find themselves appalled by what is being charged, what was paid by their insurer and the rational connection of value connecting the work done, the amount the facility was charging and what they are willing to afford.

During the recession, quite a few underinsured folks decided to put off many medical procedures, which saved the insurers quite a bit of money. Even so, the rates they charged and the percentage of coverage continued to favor the insurer, rather than the insured. At the same time, many insurers continued to squeeze the primary care doctor and other providers, while enriching the hospitals, the facilities and other higher end specialists who either are willing to accept what the insurers allow in the network or exit the healthcare networks altogether.

The more physicians exit the networks, the more market forces can control prices, rather than professional clout and the rise of the surgicenter can in the end be helpful to the consumer since they can negotiate prices with both their doctor who is performing the procedure as well as the facility.

The rise of the health care bargain hunters web site is in response to patients assuming more control of their providers, the costs of the providers, the cost of the facility and many of the things that come with the overall experience.

When patients begin to have a way of shopping costs, for identical procedures, it can be shocking to find out that in one part of the state, the surgery may cost as low as $10,000 with everything and in a wealthier part of the state, costs can be $70,000 for the same exact procedure. Many of these prices are offsetting medicaid who underpays for the procedures doctors do so you are helping fund Medicaid patients. Medical procedure pricing is like the wild wild west and believe it or not, soon you can shop for the medical procedure the way you shop for other things you would buy. The system (a monopoly, to say the least) does not like this new reality. The patient should.

With more life threatening problems unfortunately, we are still at their mercy, however, since we do not have a single payer system (hopefully, Washington will eventually realize we need this badly), hopefully, a single payer system will emerge that benefits the patient. While many of us are taking our time with less emergent problems, pricing them out, many of us will also realize we never needed the recommend procedure after all. This is what happened in the worst part of the recession as more people put off procedures they could not afford and found out, their health was unaffected.

Price and quality are not as closely linked in healthcare as most people believe, especially since healthcare facilities are controlled and regulated by the state they reside in. It is unhealthy to be placed in financial jeopardy by having a health care procedure that can save your life. For major procedures, the rise of medical tourism to countries such as India scores high marks with those who have experience it.

Check out this article

Health Bargain Hunters Use Websites to Cut Doctor Bills

By Ryan Flinn – May 21, 2012

Surgery to remove your appendix in one California hospital could cost $180,000. Have the operation at a different facility in the same state and the bill might be as little as $1,500.

That kind of disparity, typical across the country, combined with escalating medical spending and the increasing amount of data available online, has prompted several startups to get into the business of helping companies and their employees save health-care dollars.

Price and quality are not as closely linked in healthcare as most people believe, especially since healthcare facilities are controlled and regulated by the state they reside in. It is unhealthy to be placed in financial jeopardy by having a health care procedure that can save your life. For major procedures, the rise of medical tourism to countries such as India scores high marks with those who have experience it.

read more here