Getting a Fair Price Shouldn’t Be a Struggle

I’m a 50 year old woman (or at least somewhere near 50) who needs to get a routine bone density scan.  My doctor suggested it as part of my preventive care routine, and I heard it was painless and easy so I consented.  No big deal to schedule, my doctor told me, her office would make the appointment.

The day before my test, I started thinking about the fact that I had to go to a hospital annex to get the scan, and I wondered if it would be more expensive.  Working for Trig, I know that there are cost comparison tools to find out what a fair price for a Bone Density Test (DEXA) would be.  I found that prices ranged anywhere from about $150-$550 depending on where you went.  

I called the facility where my test was being done and asked what my cost would be.  They cheerfully told me that with my health insurance company’s rate, my price would be $412.  I cheerfully told them to cancel my appointment.  I told them that I was on a mission of fairness.

Feeling like a really great healthcare consumer, I called my insurance company to tell them about how I was going to save them money (and by extension, me) by finding a new facility!  I asked them to  tell me where I could go to get the best price.  Rather than crowning me queen for the day, they told me that I had already met my deductible so it wouldn’t cost ME anything, so just to go ahead with my previous option.  I told them that, no, I was actually being a really great consumer, and I wanted to save THE PLAN money.  They were unimpressed, and once again told me not to worry about it.  

After adjusting my crown, I told “John” (real name, go find him!) to find me a new facility.  He came back on the line with the suggestion of a diagnostic center that was actually closer in proximity to me and told me that their price was $194.  Deal done.

Spending about 30 minutes doing some legwork saved me $218.  This made me wonder if this was part of what is wrong with the healthcare system. $218 could be the difference between getting an important test or not getting one.   Why is the price for the same scan so drastically different from one facility to the next?  Why isn’t the insurance company worried about this?  Everyone should keep this in mind and spend a few minutes checking out prices to make sure they’re fair.  It will matter to their own pocketbook as well their employers’ in the long run. The best news is that it isn’t that difficult to learn how

All I know is my crown and sash are intact.