Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Health Care and Comparison Shopping

Americans like a good deal, and they love it even more when the deal has more value than originally perceived. According to a very recent study just published by the Regence Group, seven out of ten consumers are likely to comparison shop and gather information on price and quality, especially for medical services. 

 With the advent of the internet, we are considerably more savvy now than 10 years ago when it comes to researching the best deals in the market place including health care options. There are websites that show various options for not only insurance, but also other medical needs and information. Transparency is the key factor when it comes to finding the best deal in health care.

Companies that provide information online are more likely to find consumers ready to make a purchase versus those businesses who make it more difficult to find out how to use their products and services. The Commonwealth Fund has recently stated that U.S. health care costs are projected to double in the next ten years. We need greater efficiency in the health care system in order to allow people the ability options for consumer-friendly choices. 

A lot of variations on the current theme are being proposed now by politicians, government agencies, and private industry. The real issue is that Americans must make wise choices when it comes to making health care decisions, especially when it comes to purchasing health related products and services, choosing medical providers, and taking preventive measures to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We need to be disciplined and creative in our approach.

Free websites like HealthPricer.com are good to search for multiple options for health products including prescription medications, contact lens, over-the-counter drugs and supplements, and more. Using the Internet's power of information to shop for the best price on expensive procedures and tests is gathering speed. Health insurance is getting more and more expensive all the time. 

Insurance websites like Insurance.com, eHealthInsurance.com, and even DentalPlans.com are portals for consumers to shop for coverage without committing to a specific agent for information. Medicineonline.com has valuable information on it, and a site called BidforSurgery.com allow you to list the plastic or dental surgery procedure you need and then wait for doctors to bid to perform the procedure; and even more bizarre is Healthbase.com and other sites like it that promote "medical tourism."

In August, 2006, President Bush signed an Executive Order requiring transparency in pricing and quality of health care with the intent of encouraging private insurance companies to follow his example. The four agencies that were included are:
The Department of Health and Human Services (oversight of Medicaid and Medicare),
the Veteran Affairs Department and the Department of Defense (oversight of military health care programs, i.e. TriCare), and the Office of Personnel Management (oversight of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program) .


When it comes to making savvy purchases for health care, the true test is whether it makes sense for not only the short term, but also long term benefits. Is it practical and affordable, and can I use the service with nominal restrictions? Where can I use it, and how does it work? How long do I need to wait before I can use what I purchased or get a satisfactory response from the vendor, provider, or company? Is there an easy way to seek restitution if something goes wrong, or I feel that I have been mislead? These and more detailed questions should be considered before entering into an agreement for any health care purchase. 

Make sure that you get all questions answered before buying the product or service, and read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Know what you are buying and what recourse you have if it doesn't work out.

Bargain shopping may work well at the local discount retailer, but not too great for medical needs. Remember, in most cases, you get what you pay for. And, if it sounds way too good to be true, it probably isn't. Like I tell my kids in elementary school.."Do your homework." It will pay off in the long run, and you may well end up saving money in the short run, too.

Until next time. 

1 comment:

Arige Prakash said...

How Necessary Are Medical Tourism Companies?Does it make more sense to plan my health vacation on my own or to use a medical tourism company to help out with the details. The latter is more expensive but seems a great deal easier.