Karen Kuiper of Grand Rapids received $100 in the mail from her health insurer, simply for shopping online for good deals. What did she buy? A low-cost colonoscopy. Her insurer covered the entire bill for the roughly $530 procedure, which, thanks to Kuiper’s bargain hunting, could have saved the company $1,000 or more than if she had visited a higher-cost medical provider. The $100 was her reward for saving all that money. “I want to make sure I get a good deal on anything that I purchase,” Kuiper said, ”so why shouldn’t I do the same for my health care?” Her insurance company, Priority Health, is at the forefront in Michigan of the national trend in health care toward providing consumers with greater transparency to costs. Insurers here and across the country have been launching websites and smartphone apps that offer detailed cost information on some medical procedures and services, such as knee replacements, MRIs and colonoscopies. The goal is to lower health care costs by helping people find and compare prices at area hospitals and clinics, which traditionally haven’t advertised what they charge. Insurers rolled out these cost calculators as more of their customers enrolled in high-deductible health plans that require spending hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket each year before insurance kicks in. It’s still to be determined whether price transparency on its own can substantially slow the rise or even… Read full this story
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