There’s been no shortage of news coverage this year about the spiraling cost of healthcare in the United States. With the Obamacare clock ticking closer to October 1, health exchanges still seem a distant future to many, and the cost of health care still too high.
But beyond insurance rates, it seems the problem may not be the public’s income but instead, the simple cost of care – prescriptions, surgeries, procedures and tests.
A recent New York Times article, “The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill,” compares the costs of routine medical procedures between countries. Think of a $1,185 colonoscopy in the United States versus $655 in Switzerland. Or, a $40,364 hip replacement in the U.S., versus $7,731 in Spain.
In a separate Times article, “American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World,” we learn of standard childbirth procedures costing $9,775 in the United States versus $2,641 in Great Britain.
Or, as CNN reports, what about a $140 Tylenol pill distributed at a hospital? Sounds crazy right?
The speed at which prices have increased over the years is staggering – and almost sure to knock the wind out of you should you face a medical bill without the assistance of health insurance. More than ever, it’s important to be a smart consumer.
Hospitals are under no obligation to reveal prices to you. When the bill arrives, you’re uncertain as to how the pricing is determined and how to compare the rates from one medical center to the next. Doctors are not accustomed to discussing the cost of prescriptions with you. Your co-pay could be $200 higher than expected.
But as awareness spreads, so will transparency.
Tips: How to be a smarter medical shopper
Get a second opinion. Before moving forward with a laundry list of prescriptions or ultrasounds or MRI’s or CT scans, ask a second medical professional to weigh in. The cost of that second appointment could save you thousands in medical bills.
Cost compare. Ask your pharmacist to compare the price of your prescription medications between retail, co-pay and HelpRx coupons or NPSN cards. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for options when it comes to prescribing effective, but inexpensive, medications.
Shop around. It’s a murky market out there, but you may find some clarity with a little research. For example, there’s a surgical center in Oklahoma that lists estimated, all-inclusive procedure rates on its website. Use listed rates as a bargaining chip, plane ticket in hand.