Tue, May 8, 2012 – by Sally Herigstad

One Step to Start Cutting Health Care Costs

Imagine you go to the grocery store and there are no prices on anything. Reluctant to spend money blindly, you go to the store on the next block, only to discover all their prices have disappeared. Everyone just buys what they want and gets the bill next month. And you seem to be the only person who minds, so it’s awkward asking the manager where the prices went.

People might enjoy price-free grocery shopping at first. No coupons to clip, no store sales to peruse. The deli cheese from Europe looks good, and how about filet mignon tonight? Meanwhile, the stores don’t compete with each other. The unseen prices rise.

Then, a month or two later, we get the bill. Ouch!

That’s how most of us shop for medical care. Dr. Smith may charge twice as much as Dr. Jones, but who knows? And if we have insurance, who cares?

We should care. For one thing, health insurance seldom covers everything, including dental and eye care, and most people have a deductible. And even if your insurance pays every penny, if nobody watches what health care really costs, all our premiums go up. Someone always pays the bill, even if it’s your insurance company or the government.

Try this: Next time you make an appointment with the dentist, doctor, or optometrist, ask how much the visit costs and what’s included. For example, some dentists check and clean your teeth in one visit – others make you come in twice and pay for two visits, doubling the cost. If you’re open to going elsewhere, call two or three places. You might be astonished at the price differences!

If you’re paying cash, ask for the cash price. You may save 10 percent or more just for asking.

Shopping around for medical services can save you a bundle. All you have to do is ask.