While it is true that some tests, like MRI and CT scans, may be performed better (better images, better contrast administration, etc) at some locations than others, many times the test is similar but the costs to the patient may be widely divergent. Yet, for most patients the exact costs are not known until the bill arrives in the mail. A recent study shows that many patients will consider the costs of these expensive tests if they are provided beforehand. Here’s the NY Times link, MRI study, and an excerpt:
A study released Monday in the journal Health Affairs suggests we are smarter than that.
The insurer WellPoint provided members who had scheduled an appointment for an elective magnetic resonance imaging test with a list of other scanners in their area that could do the test at a lower price. The alternative providers had been vetted for quality, and patients were asked if they wanted help rescheduling the test somewhere that delivered “better value.”
Fifteen percent of patients agreed to change their test to a cheaper center. “We shined a light on costs,” said Dr. Sam Nussbaum, WellPoint’s chief medical officer. “We acted as a concierge and engaged consumers giving them information about cost and quality.”
The program resulted in a $220 cost reduction (18.7 percent) per test over the course of two years, said Andrea DeVries, the director of payer and provider research at HealthCore, a subsidiary of WellPoint, which conducted the study. It compared the costs of scanning people in the WellPoint program with those of people in plans that did not offer such services.
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