Lower Your Health Care Costs – Know Price Before You Buy

Lower Your Health Care Costs – Know Price Before You Buy

Sep 23 2014

Avoid sticker shock by understanding your health care costs before you walk through the hospital doors.

By: John Fox, M.D.

The Affordable Care Act was created to offer more individuals access to health insurance at an affordable price. However, health care costs go well beyond the monthly premium of a health plan.

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan reports that the national health care expenditure rate will have an average growth of 5.7 percent through 2021. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that at this rate, 50 percent of income for a family of four will go to health care by 2021. Predictably, this will further escalate the debates within families, businesses and governments about balancing health care costs against jobs, economic health, education and other personal and societal priorities.

In Detroit, the price of a knee arthroscopy ranges from $1,400 to $13,000.

More and more individuals are taking an active role in their health and asking their doctor questions about their condition, treatment and medication options. Yet, rarely do you hear a patient ask about the cost of their health care services.

That’s why it might surprise you to learn that when it comes to health care, it can pay to shop around. And that is important since there can be huge disparities in hospital charges. For example, in Detroit, the price of a knee arthroscopy ranges from $1,400 to $13,000. In West Michigan, the price for kidney stone treatments range from $2,000 to $14,000. By investigating your options and driving a few extra miles, you can save a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for non-emergency services.

You may also be surprised to learn that higher costs don’t necessarily mean better quality or better outcomes. In fact, a report from the highly respected Annals of Internal Medicine published in 2013 failed to find a connection between price and quality in health care.

Creating greater awareness of health care costs is important since individuals and families are paying more and more for both health insurance and health services. The power to impact these prices is in your hands. We all should to ask our health care providers to disclose their prices. By making this change and creating more transparency in health care, we can begin to lower the cost of health care for all.

The great news is that there are already resources to help consumers do this effectively. Priority Health, in partnership with Healthcare Blue Book, launched the only comprehensive cost comparison tool available in the Michigan market in 2013. The online database lets users compare price ranges for facilities in each of the state’s geographic regions and also provides quality ratings and patient reviews.

Everyone should be aware of their health care costs such as the prices of surgeries, lab tests and X-rays before walking through the hospital doors – this way they can save money and avoid the sticker shock when the bill comes.

About the Author: John Fox, M.D., is senior medical director and associate vice president, medical affairs at Priority Health. He is responsible for medical technology assessment (medical and pharmaceutical), utilization and case management, physician profiling and pay-for-performance programs. He is also responsible for development of new programs, including shared decision making, advanced care planning, integrated specialty pharmacy program and value-based benefit designs.