By Melissa Larson, Ft. Jesse Imaging & Gale Keeran Center for Women
With the electronic devices in our hands, we can easily compare prices for many items we’d like to purchase. Shopping for a new vacuum? Looking to refresh your family’s swimsuits and beach towels before vacation? A simple search (even with your voice) will result in dozens of results, options, and price points. It’s almost too easy!
What about the price of your prescription drugs from your doctor? Certainly, it takes a little more legwork, but you can get those answers. Now, what if you wanted a price for an upcoming surgical procedure or an MRI of your brain? Do you have the same power to shop and easily find the best prices for these medical expenses?
Comparison shopping for prescriptions has been easier for most consumers to adapt to in recent years. Websites and smartphone apps like GoodRx are simple to use and allow you to quickly compare the price of prescriptions across various pharmacies. Additionally, patients and even physicians have started to request generic options for their needed prescriptions as a measure to save money.
Unfortunately, price comparison among most other medical services—like the examples of surgery and imaging—lag significantly behind in price transparency. Healthcare systems are now required to publish prices that are visible to patients, but most patients don’t necessarily know where to look or even how to find the right information.
Recently, I went to my doctor for a complaint of dizziness. Having not had a recent blood workup, my physician ordered a battery of blood work. They walked me right into the onsite lab where they completed various blood draws and sent me on my way. While there was definite convenience in this, I was a bit shocked when the bills started coming in. My health insurance is a high deductible plan, and I am fully aware that I have to pay a significant out of pocket cost. Even still, I was astonished by the costs and wondered—perhaps a little too late—if there had been a better lab to use for the lab services. I reached out to a colleague in the medical industry to find out what these costs might have been had I elected to not use my insurance—instead electing to pay cash at the time of service. I learned that the costs would have been about 90% less in going that route.
The Healthcare Price Transparency Act went into effect on January 1, 2021. But it still isn’t quite as simple as searching “Comprehensive Metabolic Panel” in your favorite web browser to get a handle on the various prices you might pay. Some of the factors to consider when “shopping” for healthcare are the prices you’ll pay either with or without the use of your insurance policy. Websites aren’t necessarily easy to navigate and even in the moment of sitting in your doctor’s office, it can be hard to remember to ask what these requested services might end up costing. Even still, your physician’s office may not know the answer to this question—they are far too busy to also have this knowledge at the top of mind.
While it may be a little more complicated to do, searching for the best price in various health care services could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. One of the best ways to start understanding prices is to use the cost estimator tools available online in many popular insurance plans. FairHealthConsumer.org is an expansive resource, providing healthcare cost estimates based on 26 billion healthcare claims for more than 10,000 services in the United States.
Price Transparency in Imaging Services
While the healthcare world may not have quite caught up to the ease of a quick google search for commonly purchased household items, some health care settings right in Bloomington/Normal are working to make your options, choices, and prices more visible.
Fort Jesse Imaging & Gale Keeran Center for Women has an easy-to-use price tool located on our website: www.ftjesse.com/cost. Simply choose the insured or uninsured options and find the service you need to see the price. When choosing the insured option you’ll find a range of prices, but when selecting the uninsured (cash pay at time of service) option you can view the exact price you’ll pay out of pocket for any of our available imaging services.
If you’ve ever been at a hospital for a medical exam or test, you’ll recognize that often you’ll receive multiple bills in the mail for that test—separate bills for the hospital itself, the laboratory ,and the radiologist that reads your test. At Ft. Jesse Imaging we keep your costs in check with global billing—you’ll never get a separate bill for the services we provide; it’s all included!
Healthcare costs have been on the rise for many years. Price transparency is a great step forward in helping patients better understand and utilize the healthcare system. But the simple act of making prices available does not mean that all healthcare consumers know how to find, use, and understand that information. Ft. Jesse Imaging has been leading the charge in this community with educating patients on transparency, and other independent healthcare organizations are doing the same. In the meantime, we hope all patients start to work as their own advocate.
Ft. Jesse Imaging & Gale Keeran Center for women, located at 2200 Ft Jesse Rd. in Normal, is proud to offer the best rates for all of Bloomington/Normal’s diagnostic imaging needs. They offer PET/CT, MRI, CT, Ultrasound, X-ray, Mammography, Bone Density, and ABUS. With cutting edge technology, specialty trained radiologists, and convenient appointment scheduling, they strive to offer physicians and patients a superior experience. You may call them at 309-454-5552, visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FtJesseImaging or online at www.ftjesse.com.