Business & Investment

Americans scroll through Amazon and Walmart for bargains, but choose expensive healthcare services and throw away hundreds of dollars

People spend hours refining the Amazon

And target

For bargains, and actively negotiate with car dealers and realtors-still they literally overcome potential savings when choosing healthcare services.

Patients who needed MRI and had access to price shopping tools overlooked cheaper providers and paid more. Journal of Health Economics.

The findings highlight the limits of price transparency and the impact of referrals.

In a 2013 claim review from the National Health Insurance Company, Professor Zack Cooper of Yale University determined that consumers traveled an average of 26 minutes on lower limb MRI and passed an average of 6 locations for a cheaper price. Did.

“People don’t buy healthcare like they buy other services.”

— Yale University Professor Zack Cooper

According to Cooper’s research, policyholders had access to price shopping tools, but less than 1% actually used them.

Patients and insurance companies paid a total of $ 851, patients paid $ 307, and insurance companies paid $ 544. Studies have shown. If the patient used the lowest cost MRI provider for the same travel period, the patient could have paid $ 222 and the carrier could have paid $ 324.

That’s a total cost of $ 546, a nearly 36% reduction.

If the patient searched for and found the best bargain within an hour’s drive, the patient and his carrier could have paid almost 55% less.

Why did you miss the chance to save money? Perhaps it is the fact that the referral comes from the person’s regular doctor.

(The American Medical Association, the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, and the American Hospitalization Association did not respond to requests for comment.)

Patients are more easily threatened

“People don’t buy healthcare like they buy other services.” I have written Cooper, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Public Health. The idea of ​​searching for the best price is “tough and intimidating.” As a result, patients often follow the advice of the referral doctor, he said.

“Rather than buying the price of an MRI scan of the lower extremities, the patient appears to be treated at the usual place where the doctor traditionally refers the patient,” he said. “This important finding underscores how important physician advice is to patient decision making.”

Many doctors are unaware of price volatility and may be sticking to the provider they use all the time, Cooper said. “There’s something like this inertia to take over,” he told MarketWatch.

Patients with hospital-paid medical care were more likely to go to the hospital-owned imaging center.

Cooper continued that the “more horrifying version” of missed savings was increasingly associated with hospitals that owned doctors’ practice. Doctors in these clinics may have incentives to refer you to other parts of the hospital-owned business.

In fact, the study showed that hospital-paid clinic patients were more likely to go to a hospital-owned imaging center. The average MRI cost was $ 1,475 compared to $ 645 for a stand-alone imaging center.

The secret may be to help doctors become more accustomed to potential cost savings, Cooper said. It’s like an insurance company widget in a patient’s electronic file, showing potential costs at various professional service providers nearby.

“Target them with information and incentives and don’t hit patients overhead,” he said.

Cooper deliberately looked up information about MRI because the quality of the procedure did not change significantly and the price was different.

It may make MRI a service that people want to shop for. But if that doesn’t happen here, it’s likely that even more complex steps won’t happen, he said.

Since 2013, new regulations on healthcare price transparency have come into force. For example from this year, Hospitals need to publicly list the prices charged to insurance companies and patients who pay cash for procedures.

In 2023, another federal regulation requiring insurers to provide consumer-friendly rules on prices and rates for different types of care and procedures is ready to come into force.

Patient advocate said Clear pricing is good and good, However, there are limits to what can be achieved as medical costs skyrocket.

Other observers say that clear and accessible prices can bring real benefits. “Patients didn’t go shopping because this wasn’t easy,” says Marni Carrie, secretary general of the Independent Medical Association. Despite the new price transparency rules, Carrie said it’s still difficult to find prices at some hospitals.

Still, she added, “I’m moving the ball down the field.”

“When Band-Aid is torn at all these prices and they see the light of day, we shop online,” Carrie said.

But Cooper believes that price transparency has that effect. “I don’t think it’s harmful,” but he didn’t think it would bring about a “consumer revolution that transforms healthcare.”

Therefore, it is important to make the referral doctor more aware of the potential savings.

Americans scroll through Amazon and Walmart for bargains, but choose expensive healthcare services and throw away hundreds of dollars Americans scroll through Amazon and Walmart for bargains, but choose expensive healthcare services and throw away hundreds of dollars

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