Healthcare costs vary widely, but consumers that do go online tend to find better deals than consumers that don’t, says new research from UnitedHealthcare.
In New York City, the cost of a knee MRI ranges from $179 to $4,945, while the costs for the same procedure in Miami range from $142 to $4,406. If consumers pay for 20% of the costs, those costs could range from $29 to $989, says UnitedHealthcare, the largest commercial health insurer.
The need for price transparency becomes even clearer when facing high-cost procedures like a lumbar fusion, which is surgery to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in a patient’s spine. Costs range from $5,520 to $95,955 in Miami and from $26,004 to $265,908 in San Francisco. A 20 percent coinsurance payment for a lumbar fusion in San Francisco can range from $5,201 to $83,182, says UnitedHealthcare.
But recent studies have shown that medical cost transparency resources for consumers may help people save money and select healthcare professionals based on objective information. On an individual level, consumers who compared costs using a mobile or online resource paid 36% less for their healthcare services than those who didn’t use the service, says UnitedHealthcare.
The analysis also found people who use online or mobile transparency resources are more likely to select health care providers rated on quality and cost-efficiency across all specialties, including for primary care (7% more likely) and orthopedics (9% percent more likely), says United Healthcare.
Nationwide, the use of medical transparency resources could reduce healthcare spending by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.
“Nearly one third of Americans have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for healthcare, up from 14%in 2012, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey,” says UnitedHealthcare vice president of digital products Craig Hankins. “As we work to help make healthcare more efficient and enable people to more easily navigate the health system, online and mobile transparency resources have the potential to help improve health outcomes and make care more affordable.”
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