Don't Settle When It Comes to Health Costs

September 8, 2011

It seems like forever that Consumer Reports has been telling people to haggle over the price of a microwave or a car.  Now the folks behind the magazine want you to haggle with your doctor -- or at least let her know that you can't afford that bypass, says National Public Radio (NPR).

  • The cost of health care is expected to almost double in the next decade, and insurers and employers are increasingly shoving that cost onto individuals.
  • As a result, even people with good insurance are finding it harder to pay medical bills.

NPR talked with John Santa, an internal medicine doctor who directs the magazine's Health Ratings Center and wrote this call to medical bargain shopping.  He says it's the first time the organization has advised people to bargain with their doctors, he says.  And he understands why some people would rather have a colonoscopy than tell their doctor they're having money trouble.  Still, he says, "Your doctor needs to know about the stresses in your life."

  • Santa says a doctor really wants to know if money is tight, because there are many treatment options that are just as good if not better, and also less costly.
  • Doctors and other health care providers also have an ethical obligation to put patients' financial situations ahead of their own, he notes.
  • Talking with the doctor about costs before treatment is the best bet, but it's still OK to negotiate after getting slammed with a big bill for a high-ticket item, Santa says.

One of the biggest hang-ups in shopping for health care is that it's hard to find out the real price.  There's no Google Shopper for hip replacements.  But the Healthcare Blue Book is a good start.  This free service provides at least an inkling of what the going rate might be for that hip replacement ($20,566) or dental crown ($959), says NPR.

Source: Nancy Shute "Haggle, Don't Settle, When It Comes To Health Costs," National Public Radio, September 6, 2011.

 

Browse more articles on Health Issues