Getting Cash Back for Choosing Medical Services

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by Ed Tobias |

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You know about credit cards that offer you cash back for the items you buy. How about getting cash back for selecting specific healthcare service providers for things like medical tests and lab work?

Go to your insurance company’s website, then enter your zip code and the service that you need. Then you’re presented with a list of facilities and the amount of cash that the insurer will pay you based on your selection.

Julie Appleby wrote about this a few days ago in Kaiser Healthcare News.

“Paid? To get a test?” she writes. “It’s part of a strategy to rein in health care spending by steering patients to the most cost-effective providers for non-emergency care.”

The KHN article points to a nurse in New Hampshire who scheduled a mammogram at a specific radiology facility and received a $50 check. A series of lab tests netted her $25 for each.

It’s not only happening in New Hampshire with some insurance providers. In Maine, the law requires some insurers to offer this cash-back option, and it’s being studied in Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio.

Experts quoted by Appleby have opinions that range from “not crazy” to “quite the breakthrough.”

“’If insurance plans were serious about saving money, they would have been doing this stuff years ago,’ said Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a limited-government advocacy group based in Naples, Fla., that promotes such ‘right-to-shop’ laws.”

But there are other experts who aren’t as bullish.

“’These are not crazy ideas,’ said David Asch, professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation in Philadelphia. But it’s hard to get consumers to change behavior — and curbing health care spending is an even bigger task. Shopping incentives, he warned, ‘might be less effective than you think.'”

According to the article, not all of these cash-back programs will show you the actual cost of the test you’ll be taking. They only show you the amount of cash you’ll get if you to select the insurance company’s preferred facility. So, you have no way of determining which facility is actually the least expensive to use. There can be large differences. Kaiser Health News says in one zip code in Northern Virginia “the cost of a colonoscopy ranged from $670 to $6,240. …”

At worst, these paybacks will put some cash in patients’ pockets. At best, it seems possible that they could help lower some healthcare costs.

Have you had an experience with healthcare paybacks? If so, I’d like to hear about it.

You’re invited to follow my personal blog at


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


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