Shopping around for MRIs, CT scans, mammograms and blood work can save big bucks

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Shopping around for MRIs, CT scans, mammograms and blood work can save big bucks
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If you’ve ever tried to shop for health care by price, you know it’s a frustrating experience. That’s because health care as an industry has steadfastly rejected price transparency, with the exception of nurse-in-a-box operations that generally do post prices.

But that frustrating feeling may soon go away thanks to several innovative new websites.

Read more: How to hire a medical billing specialist as an advocate

Know what you’re going to pay before you go under the knife

We’ve reached a point where there a number of sites that can help you shop for health care procedures as varied as MRIs, CT scans, mammograms and blood work.

Amino is a free service that allows you to research the cost of a particular procedure at your doctor of choice based on the insurance you have! It pulls together data from other people who have the same insurance who already had the procedure you’re looking for at the doctor you’re considering.

The site now boasts pricing data on 550,000 physicians, 78 procedures and 129 insurance companies. Among the procedures you can get a quote for on Amino are ACL surgery, EKGs, hernia surgery, knee arthroscopy, skin tag removal and vasectomy.

For example, ACL surgery in Jacksonville, Fla., with United Healthcare as your insurer yields quotes that range from $7,957 to $10,841 for the same procedure at different doctors throughout the area. In another example, a liver biopsy in the Los Angeles area with Aetna can run you anywhere from $3,838 to $4,411. So it pays shop wisely!

Another service that lets you comparison shop for pricing of select procedures is Vitals.com. State employees in Kentucky and New Hampshire and employees of Florida’s Jackson Health System have access to this tool that searches by price. Those employees have further incentives to shop based on cost because they can earn between $25 to $500 from their employer by selecting lower-cost providers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A third option for comparison shopping is Healthcare Bluebook, which offers a free Fair Price search tool.

You have recourse if medical billing issues arise

Medical debt is damaging the credit of around 43 million people, according to the latest figures available. You would expect damaged credit from medical bills to be a problem for the uninsured. But the untold story here is that people with insurance get their credit trashed both because of billing mix-ups and high debt-to-income ratios.

Some of that debt is debt that people don’t legitimately owe. That’s because roughly eight in 10 hospital bills have multiple errors, according to Money magazine. So almost always the bill will be wrong, and it won’t be in your favor.

If you need help sorting out your bill, you might consider hiring a claims assistance professional or medical billing advocate who will look over your bill and vet it for errors.

These people are available in more than half of all states in the country. Visit Claims.org or BillAdvocates.com to locate one near you and expect to pay between $30 and $50 per hour for their services. Anyone who is uninsured and paying retail for expensive medical services should go this route!

Read more: How to tell if your doctor is being paid to steer you to certain drugs

Faith-based risk pools alternatives to traditional health insurance

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Theo Thimou About the author: Theo Thimou
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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