Quotes on Health Services
One welcome trend in the healthcare industry is that of price transparency - that is, providers making the price of their services as simple, understandable, and visible as buying a loaf of bread or a gallon of gasoline. Gradually, more hospitals, clinics, and physician offices are refining how transparent they are on price. Call a medical office and ask for a price quote on a medical service, and you may get a straight answer. You will very likely get a much straighter answer that you would have gotten five or even two years ago.
Getting quotes on healthcare services can be tricky - services like Compass do it for a nominal subscription, and you can also do it if you are armed with some basic information. Before you call around, educate yourself with a couple important points of context.
First, know that the price you pay has everything to do with the coverage that you have. People don't like to hear that healthcare isn't a one-size-fits-all system, but it is not. For a hospital or doctor's office to accurately translate your charges into a billed amount for you, they need to effectively determine your insurance companies covered amount and discounts. These amounts will likely be different for a Blue Cross plan than they are for an Aetna plan. Ensure that you are not only receiving a price of the retail service price, but that you are also understanding what your patient balance will be after the contract with your insurance is figured in. Think of it like the hotel business - there is the "rack rate" - the rate posted on the door that nobody actually pays. And then there is the real rate, the one that you are offered based on when you book and what kind of discounts you are eligible for.
Second, realize that more than one healthcare entity will likely make up your healthcare bill. If you're having a knee scope, you may very well have a hospital or clinic charge, a surgeon charge, and an anesthesia charge. These might well be three different people who bill from three different offices, and under three different contracts with your insurance! Calling the hospital only, in this case, would give you information on what the facility charge will be, but not the surgeon or anesthesiologist. To fully understand the cost of a procedure, you would need all three.
Third, realize that cost and quality must both be weighed together. Having a procedure performed for a low price is great, but not if it is done by someone who isn't good at their craft. Ask around, access the increasing number of websites devoted to quality ratings, and ensure that other things that are important to you (i.e. the provider being linked in with your primary care physician's medical record, for example) are adequately addressed.
With a little information and some concise questions, you can get meaningful quotes from healthcare providers.