Written by: Terri Ottosen, Consumer Health Coordinator, National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), Southeastern/Atlantic Region (SE/A). You can contact Terri at: email@example.com.
Health care is expensive. Even those of us lucky enough to have health insurance, can be challenged when it comes to managing our healthcare expenses. Health consumers have long had issues trying to figure out how much doctor visits or hospital stays will cost them, but increasingly that is changing. There are several consumer resources that allow individuals to compare charges for common procedures and potentially save -money.
Healthcare Bluebook is an organization where the founders purport the idea of “creating fairness in the healthcare marketplace” citing the secrecy of health costs which “puts everyone from consumers to corporations at an unfair disadvantage, leading to gaps in quality of care and much higher costs.” On the organization’s “Why Transparency” page, it notes that prices for the same in-network procedure can vary by over 500%, so chances are; you’re paying more than you have to for a medical service. The fair price is the “reasonable amount you should pay for a medical service. It’s calculated from a nationwide database of medical payment data and customized to your geographic area.” The example on this page is for an MRI, which ranged from the low of $330 to a high of $2470.”
Another site, Consumer Cost Lookup, is dedicated to sharing information about healthcare prices and health insurance. In the organization’s mission, they strive to “bring transparency and clarity to healthcare costs and health insurance information through consumer tools and resources, data products and research support.” They use a “database of billions of billed medical and dental services to populate their free website, which allows consumers to estimate and plan medical and dental expenses and to better understand and navigate the healthcare system.” The tools are also available in Spanish and through an app available for download through the Apple App store and Google Play. They also have a helpful section on making smarter healthcare choices with a series of guides and videos that use “plain speak” to explain health insurance, including insurance terms and how to deal with denied claims and how to use your flexible spending plan.
Becoming a smarter healthcare consumer and researching the potential expenses ahead of time, allows consumers to be prepared and ensures participation in medical-decision-making. It can also help when comparing facilities, thereby potentially saving thousands of dollars. Getting the best quality and best price helps keep healthcare consumers and their wallets healthy.