Tips for Healthcare Cost Shopping

For decades, our healthcare system pretty much discouraged cost shopping. After all, when you pay so little of the cost yourself and the pricing is so complicated, it’s easier to accept the prices you’re offered; however, recent changes have made healthcare cost shopping easier. Here are some tips on getting the best price possible.

Understand your plan. Knowing what’s covered under your healthcare plan and how your plan works will help you start the cost-saving process.

Tap your network. Choosing an in-network provider will almost always save money.

Do the legwork. If your doctor ordered tests or procedures, ask for more than one provider option, and check your insurer’s website for a list of in-network providers. Ask each provider how much the ordered tests or procedures will cost, taking into account your healthcare coverage.

Talk to your provider. Let your healthcare provider know about your deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, etc. This will let him or her know you’re sensitive to cost. And ask if a bill can be reduced. In one study, 61% of patients who asked for a discount got one.

Oops. Consumer Reports Health estimates that 80% of medical bills have errors. If you see an error, tell your provider. While the process can be daunting, getting a bill corrected is worth the trouble.

One additional resource is the cost estimator included on most insurers’ websites. These tools can give you a sense of what to expect for pay, and show provider options in your area. Using the estimator is easy. Type in your zip code, answer a few basic questions, and get your area’s average cost for the ordered service, a list of providers and their prices for those services, as well as some general information about the service.

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