Medical shopping and Rising Health costs

April 21, 2014

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Excessive medical procedures can be hazardous to your health—and your wallet. Making medical decisions without even considering cost has contributed to skyrocketing health care spending and waste. What’s most astounding is that doctors often aren’t aware of the price of the procedures they recommend.  For example, a $15.44 blood test is able to check a person’s electrolyte levels, blood sugar, kidney and liver function, but there is a considerably cheaper option available. A more basic metabolic test screens for virtually the same things for $12.36. Scientists conducted a study at John Hopkins Hospital to test whether informing doctors of the cost of tests would alter their decisions about the medical services. When they compared ordering rates to a six-month period a year earlier when no costs were displayed at all, the researchers found a nearly 9 percent reduction in tests when the cost was revealed as well as a 6 percent increase in tests when no price was given.

Although this may seem like a small difference, this resulted in a savings of $27,000 over the six month study period. It is critical that we use testing and medical technology sensibly and assess whether potential benefits justify the costs.  Simple comparison shopping between testing procedures can significantly limit your medical spending. There are several accessible websites, such as Maine HealthCost, which provide current information on medical services and lab tests along with their associated costs. There are plenty of opportunities where price comparisons could lead to more cost effective choices, and taking advantage of this information could still lead to substantial savings.

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