Healthcare consumers aren't price shopping, and that's not surprising - Modern Healthcare Vital Signs | The healthcare business blog from Modern Healthcare: Blog: It's not surprising that medical consumers aren't price shopping
By Harris Meyer | October 22, 2015
How viable is it for Americans to price-shop for healthcare services, which economists, policy pundits, and insurance officials constantly urge them to do?
Vox healthcare reporter Sarah Kliff recently shopped for a better price for her own care. She discovered a predictable glitch. You may be able to find a lower-priced provider. But unless you're a medical expert, there's no guarantee you'll get quality that's equal to or better than the higher-priced provider.
That confirmed my worries about the healthcare shopping process. I'm currently facing a similar shopping dilemma.
Kliff sought a lower-priced magnetic resonance imaging test for a slow-healing stress fracture in her foot. Her orthopedist referred her to an academic medical center for the scan. Her health insurer called her and suggested that she switch to a freestanding imaging center that would charge the insurer about $400, half the academic center's price. Kliff would have paid the same $50 copay either way. But she liked the idea of reducing health system spending, so she had the scan done by the cheaper provider.
Sure enough, her orthopedist had difficulty obtaining the image from the MRI provider she went to, which wasn't among the usual centers he works with. So there was more work for the orthopedist's office staff, and Kliff had to wait half an hour in the doctor's office while they tracked down the images and report. Then the doctor found the image blurry, compared with the “much clearer” images he gets from the academic center.
In retrospect, she wishes she hadn't selected a provider based on price. “The lower-cost procedure… did indeed save my insurance plan money,” she wrote. “But it created a worse medical experience for me, and was helpful in highlighting the trade-offs that patients must make in the shopping experience.”