This is a follow up to my last post about the health care costs website www.healthcarebluebook.com. If you haven’t checked it out yet, give it a read. Basically, the site is a resource that has “fair” prices for medical procedures that can then be used to help you haggle down your healthcare costs. A practice that can be very valuable for cash pay patients that either do not have insurance, or coverage to adopt as practically all the health care in the US is grossly overpriced. What’s more, most providers are more than willing to offer cash pay discounts and bend on their prices for non-insured patients. I am reminded of the old truth that it “never hurts to ask”, because, who knows, you might just get what you ask for.
Anyway, I recently got a question from a reader about how to actually get the fair prices mentioned referenced on the site. This got me thinking about providing some more detailed instructions on what the site was good for using the site to reduce your health care bills.
First, I scoured the interwebs for responses from other people that have used the service to try and find out exactly how useful the service is. I was largely unable to find anything from actual patients that have used the service in the past, only news stories talking about the site.. odd. (I would love to hear from anybody who has successfully used the site to reduce their bills!)
Here are the basic instructions taken directly from the site (link to more FAQs about their service):
How do I ask for a price?
Many people are apprehensive when it comes to asking providers about prices, but don’t be afraid to ask. Providers expect patients to ask about treatment cost. You will find requesting a price from a provider surprisingly easy – just follow these steps:
- Know what specific service you need – Write down the name of the service and, if possible, ask your doctor to provide the billing codes for the services. (These codes are called CPT codes for doctor’s office visits, and DRG codes for hospital treatments.) The more specific you can be the easier it is for a provider to give you a price.
- Determine what a fair price is – Before calling a provider to request a price, look up the services on the Healthcare Blue Book website and write down the price. If you can’t find your service, then submit a request to Healthcare Blue Book to see if we can find the fair price.
- Call the office staff – Ask to speak with the person on their staff who can discuss pricing.
- Make sure to let them know the insurance company you are using or if you are paying for the service yourself – If you are using an insurance provider network, then you will get the insurance company’s discount. If you are paying for the service yourself, make sure to ask for a self-pay discount.
- Ask what their price is for the service you need – If your treatment is a surgical procedure, make sure to ask about pricing for all components of care, including the surgeon, hospital and anesthesia fees. Also ask if there are any fees related to the procedure that you have not covered in your conversation.
If my provider’s price is higher than the Healthcare Blue Book fair price how do I get a lower price?
If you are using an insurance provider network, you will need to call other in-network providers to request their pricing. Most network providers have to use the network rates. You may also contact your insurance company and ask them to help you locate a different provider.
If you are paying for your own services, then you can either ask your provider for a discount or call other providers to request their pricing. It is OK to ask the provider if they will accept Healthcare Blue Book price. If the provider is not comfortable with the Blue Book fair price, then ask them what they accept as payment from Blue Cross/Blue Shield patients for the service. (Why should you have to pay more than the other patients they treat when you are paying cash?)
Most providers understand that cash paying customers want the best value, and many will give a discount. However, the first provider you call may not offer a price that you are willing to accept. It is helpful to request prices from at least three providers before making a decision.
As you can see from the description above, negotiating for the best prices may not be an easy task. If you lack health insurance, and need healthcare it is definitely in your best interests to do some haggling. Because, as I said above, most providers are very willing to offer at least a token cash pay discount, and some might be willing to offer significant price cuts. They already give huge discounts to their insured patients, and paying in cash also reduces their overhead when it comes to billing and managing insurance claims. A little time and effort can end up saving you thousands of dollars.
Hope this is of some help. Again, I would really love to hear from someone who has actually used the site’s fair prices in their negotiations, and what their experience was. If anyone has any questions feel free to post them in the comments.