If you’re going to buy a car, do you limit your shopping to just one car dealer? If you need gas, do you drive past three inexpensive service stations because someone told you to fill up at a fourth, where the price is much higher? I don’t think so. But that’s what a lot of us do when we need to “buy” some healthcare services.
That’s the conclusion of a working paper that the National Bureau of Economic Research just published. In this study, written by healthcare, economic, and management experts at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia universities, patients had the opportunity to use a price comparison tool to research the cost of a non-emergency MRI. Fewer than 1 percent of those patients used it. The study also shows that a patient who needs to get that MRI will, on average, bypass six lower-priced providers on the route between their home and the location where they receive the scan. Had the lowest cost MRI provider been selected, the study reports, the patients could have reduced their out-of-pocket costs by about 30 percent and saved their insurance company about 40 percent.
Why aren’t patients comparison shopping?
Why do we select a particular facility if we need a non-emergency test, such as an MRI? The answer is we usually don’t select it — our doctor does.
Is healthcare shoppable?
(By the way, if you need help paying out-of-pocket costs for an MRI, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America recently expanded its MRI assistance program. Find the details in a column that I wrote back in June.)
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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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