Would you buy a house, a car – or even a pack of gum without knowing the price? Didn’t think so. Yet Americans purchase healthcare services without having any idea how much they or their insurance carriers are actually paying.
Tina Mentz, Executive Director at Elmhurst Outpatient Surgery Center (EOSC), believes that as a consumer, you should know exactly how much you are spending. Having a handle on costs is especially important in the current environment, where healthcare expenses have hit $8,500 per person annually, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- and, where consumers are being held personally responsible for a larger share of that annual cost than ever before.
“Healthcare should not be any different than any other industry. Consumers have the right to know exactly how much they are paying for each and every service,” said Tina Mentz, Executive Director at EOSC. “You should comparison shop when you need medical care. It’s just like anything else, you should make sure you are getting the best healthcare service that most closely meets your needs for the best price.”
To make the shopping expedition easier, EOSC has been posting its prices – and how they compare to other Illinois facilities – for quite some time. An analysis of charges for 15 surgical procedures shows that on average EOSC charges 55 percent less than the average charge at Illinois facilities (see chart).
Obtaining and comparing prices on various surgeries, procedures and services from hospitals and outpatient surgery centers is just part of the comparison shopping expedition. You also should read insurance policies to determine exactly what is covered and what is not covered by various plans. And, always make sure you are comparing “apples to apples.” For example, in some instances, you might be willing to pay more for a laparoscopic surgery, since the recovery is typically much shorter than a traditional surgery.
Quality is another consideration when shopping for healthcare services. Find out if your health provider is providing services with the most advanced technology. EOSC, for example, continually invests in state-of-the-art equipment. Most recently, the center added TENEX Health TX, ™ a minimally invasive treatment option for tendon and soft tissue injuries that was developed in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic. EOSC is also one of the first wave of facilities in Illinois to perform cataract surgery and astigmatic correction with the Catalys™ Precision Laser System.
In addition, obtain information on the facilities’ performance. For example, a look at infection rates shows that EOSC delivers advance medical treatments with an infection rate less than one percent, compared to the five percent experienced in many hospitals.
“I know people who take months to shop for a car. They analyze every little detail and visit dealer after dealer. Then, they go out the next day and make a major healthcare decision without even considering options,” Mentz says. “You need to apply the same kind of rigor to healthcare shopping as you do to anything else. After all, what could be more important?”