The bane of any purchaser is not knowing enough about the purchase opportunity. We try hard to understand the relationship between price and what we’re getting.
Nowhere is this bane more pronounced than in our relationship with our health care system. There are many ways we interface with it:
- Emergencies — where we ask no questions and simply plead to take care of us and charge us the going rate.
- Office visits and treatment — where the malady is easily diagnosed and fixed, and the costs, we assume, are small and reasonable.
- Ongoing treatment of chronic conditions — where the costs keep adding up and we need others to pay for our continuing treatment through insurance — or very expensive, one-time events such as a knee scope, an ACL operation or rotator cuff therapy, or even hip and knee replacements.
Our part is to pay the deductible and maybe some ongoing copays; and hopefully insurance will pay the rest.
We never know exactly what it costs. Neither does the doctor, because the details on your insurer’s discounted rate are kept elsewhere.
But, you do have some recourse. Other than for emergencies, you can shop. You can take the time to find out what the cost range will most likely be. Doctors will often tell you they can’t know in advance because your situation will be different. yes, but most are within “bell curve” ranges.
The biggest rate differences are often found in medical imaging. The cost is in expensive equipment and the cost to maintain it. Hospitals are notoriously more expensive for the following reasons:
- Hospitals often charge higher fees for their services to offset the costs of their 24/7 operations.
- Hospitals also may charge much higher fees for imaging exams, such as MRIs, to subsidize other poorly reimbursed services.
- Hospitals are allowed to charge Medicare and other third-party insurers a “facility fee,” leading to even more price inflation.
For consumers, the lesson is that if your physician-prescribed service, such as an MRI, CT or ultrasound, IS NOT AN EMERGENCY where you have no choice, get it done at an independent facility. In the area of medical imaging, your best choice is DIS. Compared to local hospitals, DIS average prices (which affect any deductibles and coinsurance that would be your obligation to pay), are much, much less than area hospitals and their imaging centers.
We have one simple piece of advice: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. And, if you can’t get an accurate price, or even price range, from the hospital, do you want to go somewhere where cost is a mystery? I don’t think any of us would buy a home, a car or a new dining room set without knowing the price.
So, why not apply that logic to your health care?
Our patient financial services department will be able to accurately tell you the price of our exam and for those with insurance coverage, work with you on identifying any costs that are not covered by your health plan.
Be smart. Be savvy. Take charge.
Choose independent and save. Choose Diagnostic Imaging Services: doctor trusted, patient preferred.