By John Ballard
I've mentioned this several times but it bears repeating. Paying cash for medical procedures and tests can save lots of money. But don't expect that money-saving hint to appear like napkins in your take-out. You gotta ask.
Many hospitals and physicians are offering large discounts if patients pay in cash and don't use their health insurance, the Los Angeles Times reported.
For example, a CT scan of the abdomen costs about $2,400 for patients insured by Blue Shield of California, while the Los Alamitos (Calif.) Medical Center cash price is only $250, according to the article. Another local California hospital charges insured patients $415 for blood tests that cost only $95 in cash.
To get the discounted prices, patients would have to withhold insurance information from hospitals, noted the LA Times. But experts caution against that because cash payments don't apply to patients' annual out-of-pocket spending limits for health insurance.
However, most patients don't know about the discounted cash prices. One such patient sued Blue Shield of California last month for unfair business practices, breach of good faith and misrepresentation over her medical bills after she was charged $2,336 for a CT scan that would have cost her $1,054 in cash, according to the article.
Despite state laws requiring better price transparency, the industry still faces barriers such as competition between insurers and providers. Boosting patient awareness of low cash prices could help strengthen transparency throughout the industry and control escalating healthcare costs. A lack of price transparency costs the United States about $36 billion a year in healthcare overspending, according to a February Thomson Reuters survey.
Make a mental note -- if you don't ask you may never fid out. It's better to ask and hear "No" than to fail to ask and pay more for your failure to inquire.
Every time I put up another post like this I am reminded what a sad commentary it is on the American health care system. Caveat emptor is not a bad dictum if you're shopping for a car or even a new house. But in the name of humanity, why must we be so wary when seeking health care?