(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It’s easy to comparison shop when you’re in the market for a car or airline ticket. But good luck shopping around for a medical procedure. It’s often impossible to get prices ahead of time, even for common procedures — and costs can vary widely among providers. A new collaboration between KQED, KPCC and ClearHealthCosts.com seeks to bring more transparency to the health care marketplace. They’ve created a tool where listeners can submit the cost of their mammogram. The database will expand to other procedures later this summer and in the fall.

Guests:
Lisa Aliferis, editor of KQED's State of Health blog
Jeanne Pinder, founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts.com

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    My physical exam with my primary care doc was billed at $330., but the insurance company paid the doctor just under $30. ! I don’t know how a doctor’s office – with all its staff and costs – can stay open at such a low rate of return.

  • Yecatstevir

    I will be happy to share anything. Not of the age yet for mammograms but ill keep checking in to share xray mri lab costs

  • Alex

    I have stopped going to the doctor, even though I have health insurance, just for this reason. I have been surprised too many times by large costs for a seemingly small procedure. I have called my insurance company and even they have admitted to not being able to tell me the costs of service. It’s like a racket in the guise of “health care”

    • Churchlady320

      Under ACA, you should know that all preventive care is free to you, no exceptions. You can compare what your insurance covers, deductibles, etc., but if you obtain coverage from ACA, your outlay is fixed. Any company refusing to comply with those standards in an ACA policy must be reported.

  • pickoffwhite

    Thanks Yecatstevir! We’re collecting data on many medical procedures at kqed.org/pricecheck. – Lisa at KQED

  • Anne Marie Helm

    My colleagues and I at UC Hastings have just launched a website called the Source for Competitive Healthcare on these issues and more. Check us out at competitivehealthcare.org or on Twitter @TheSourceEditor!

  • Rich W

    Since I started getting Medicare, I haven’t gotten any statements or explanation of benefits from Medicare, my supplemental co., Blue Shield, or my providers. That means I don’t have any idea what my procedures are costing. Is this normal?

    • Churchlady320

      Why do you care? There is no longer a need to shop around since preventive care is free to you, and your costs are covered for health intervention. If not you’re being ripped off – complain to HHS and the department of insurance.

      • Rich W

        I prefer to be an informed consumer, even if the service doesn’t cost me anything. Furthermore, the price records being compiled by today’s guests should include the allowable Medicare charges as a comparison. I’d also like to see whether the procedures that Medicare and Blue Shield are being billed for are ones that I actually received. There is far too much fraud in the medical field now, and that adds to the cost for all of us.

        • Churchlady320

          The guest today gave you extremely BAD information – you will pay NOTHING for preventive care. I agree that when there are costs above insurance (though that’s why you have Part C- private coverage) you should make sure you actually owe it. But it is not your job to stop fraud – it is part of the cost reduction that is making ACA and Medicare far more efficient and is part and parcel of the overview that has already cuts over $300 billion from our national care costs. Of course you can report what looks unwise, but ACA has ‘eyes and ears’ on those charges, too. This is one of the new parts of ACA/Medicare that is holding cost growth to 4% rather than the outrageous double figure increases of before.

  • Churchlady320

    This entire presentation is an utter LIE. ACA offers dozens of procedures including mammograms and colonoscopies TOTALLY FREE. These standards are also in Medicare and must be provided in all insurance. The idea that deductibles are HUGE is a joke – before ACA $10-15,000 was standard. Now it is as low as $1200. And that is charged if and only if you need some intervention – virtually all PREVENTIVE procedures are without a penny of cost.

    If Forum cannot present accurate information, it has no business on the air at all. Shame on you for such distortions.

    • You are correct. Under the ACA mammograms are supposed to be covered at no co-pay. But when ClearHealthCosts did a prototype of this project a year ago at WNYC, they found some women were charged and it was unclear why. We’ve already found that some women are paying a co-pay. We’re trying to reach out (if they provided an email address, which is not required on our form) and find out why. Also, some women elect to go out of network for their mammograms and then they may well pay a cash price.

      But most health care treatments and procedures *do* require a co-pay or other co-insurance. We started this project both to show variation in cost and to spark a conversation. We’re delighted that so many people care about this issue!

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