Summary: We're often asked: "How do people use your information?" Here are some examples.
The phone rang on the business line the other day. F.K., a California retiree, wanted to know how much a cardiovascular stress test costs in the Los Angeles area. He's covered both by Medicare and by a civil service retiree medical policy. He said he'd been charged $1,700 for the test, and he wanted to know how much he would have to pay.
I told him we don't know what his policy will pay, or what the negotiated amount is, but I helped him navigate to the search box at the top of the front page. We typed "cardio" and our search engine auto-completes by offering "cardiovascular stress test," and then he added a 100-mile radius from 90210, the famous Los Angeles zip code, then hit "go" (see screenshot). Results here: prices from $88 to $818 for a cash or self-pay patient. He said he's often responsible for 20 percent, and we agreed that 20 percent of $1,700 is a lot of money if you can have the same procedure for around $100.
Another caller, from Queens, said she's looking for a low-cost mammogram. She's on a $10,000 deductible insurance plan. The last few mammograms she had cost her around $1,000 apiece, she said, and she doesn't have that kind of money.
I showed her how to use the front page: click on "more prices" and you get a range of mammogram providers and prices. The front-page click gets you New York prices, for now. Here's a list of New York cash or self-pay prices from the site.
Another person emailed to say that she has been a customer at a New York dental provider, and that the rates she was charged don't exactly correspond with what she's been charged. We're looking into that.
We have had only three questions about our prices in our two-plus years up on the web, and in all three cases the providers ultimately said that they'd given us the wrong price, and asked us to correct. So we did.
And finally, we got this e-mail:
"I live in Florida and availed myself to your site. I checked several procedures, even going to within 500 MILES and found zero (0) results. I did this as an 'informational' exercise, NOT because I need it. As a careful consumer I feel that the over-all knowledge should be in place BEFORE it is really needed, that is, that we know WHERE TO LOOK FOR PERTINENT INFORMATION. I live about [xx] miles S. of Gainesville, [xx] miles S. of Ocala, [xx] miles N of Leesburg, [xx] miles (or so) from NW of Orlando and about [xx] hrs East of Tampa/St Pete. All are much less than 500 miles. Are there no quotes being run in Florida? Thank you."
"Thank you so much for your note. We are not in Florida yet, but hope to be there soon.
"Meanwhile, the search box will give you the Medicare reimbursement for a given procedure, which is the closest thing to a fixed or benchmark price in the marketplace. That's the best we can do for Florida right now.
"We do notice that the price ranges in the cities we do cover are very similar: lower back MRI, for example, a low of $300 or $400, up to a high of $3,000-$6,000, and we expect those ranges to be similar in Florida, given what we know from our other seven metro areas."
Jeanne Pinder is founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts.com, where this was originally posted. Reposted with permission.