Opinion/Letter: Health care shopping is mission impossible | Opinion

To those who advocate “shopping for lowest costs for health care”: Have you tried out your advice?

Bottom line: Shopping for health care is not akin to shopping for the best cost on a TV or an automobile.

I have seen suggestions like “Tell your care provider how much you will pay for a service and if they won’t accept that amount, go someplace else.” This would require multiple options for providers or for physicians to have the authority to determine their charges, which is always possible.

Then there is the advice to comparison shop across multiple facilities for the cost of a service. Again, this option assumes availability of multiple choices with similar outcomes for a given procedure.

If there are options, be prepared to spend a significant amount of time determining who can provide information to you, the consumer, on the “cost of services” (actually the billing amount). The “cost” of service depends on the price negotiated with the health facility by each health insurance plan for each billing code. The same procedure may have several billing codes based on whether it is ordered as a preventive, diagnostic or treatment measure, with different costs for each code. You will need the correct billing code to obtain information on the charges.

In addition to the procedure itself, there are associated costs: physician charges, charges by specialists, lab charges, among others.

The hospital will not be able to provide information on any provider charges and often will not be able to provide information on lab or other related charges, as those services may or may not be ordered depending on what is deemed necessary when the procedure is performed.

I am sure there are many other situations affecting cost of a given health care procedure, making “cost comparison” a challenge when it comes to health care.

To all our elected officials: Follow your advice to constituents regarding comparison shopping before you recommend this approach as a panacea for our health care challenges.

Dorothy Gray, Fluvanna County

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