Are You Spending Too Much on Health Care?

Do you carefully examine the explanation of benefits forms that you receive from your health insurer?

Do you carefully examine the explanation of benefits (EOB) forms that you receive from your health insurer?

I recently checked an EOB and found out that getting an allergy shot at a local allergist’s office costs $35, but getting the same injection at a family doctor only costs $23. This led me to wonder how I could check health care costs before receiving services.

According to an April 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, 55% of respondents believe that the US government needs to take action to make health care pricing information more available to patients. Overall, 31% of poll respondents have seen information comparing physicians, hospitals, and health insurance plans in the past 12 months. However, fewer than 20% have seen information comparing prices or quality across plans and providers.

In addition, nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said it is difficult to find out how much medical treatments and procedures provided by different doctors or hospitals would cost. Three-quarters (76%) of the uninsured noted it is difficult to find this information.

In light of soaring health care costs, consumers need to be aware of what they are being charged. Those with health insurance are finding that they are now responsible for more of their health care costs than ever before. For example, more than half of employed Americans pay a percentage of the price of outpatient surgery and hospital admissions, rather than just flat co-payments.

Consumers cannot rely on their health plan’s contracts to always deliver the lowest price, because insurers may pay very different amounts to different care providers. Those who have a high deductible health plan (HDHP) may be particularly focused on health care prices, as the plan does not make any payments until the patient’s deductible has been met.

If you have health insurance from a national insurer such as WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Humana, Aetna, or Cigna, check to see whether it offers a pricing tool. If your insurer doesn’t offer one, or if you want additional information, here are some websites that compare health care prices:

  • http://www.healthcarebluebook.com
  • http://www.guroo.com/
  • http://www.changehealthcare.com
  • http://www.newchoicehealth.com