Take Charge and Save Big by Finding the Best Health Care Prices
When working Americans understand the health care pricing game, they can play it and win. Troy Greenberg shopped around and saved $11,325!
When Troy Greenberg’s son needed a follow-up surgery to complete the repair of a broken arm, he knew he’d be shopping around for the best price.
Fifteen-year-old Leighton Greenberg broke his arm when he stepped in and took a charge during a high school basketball game in March 2021. The opposing player landed on him, breaking Leighton’s arm sideways. Ouch! Huge props for taking the charge – but bummer about the arm!
The family couldn’t shop around for the initial surgery, which took place at a hospital about 30 minutes from their home in southern Wisconsin. It cost about $25,000 and all but $400 of it was covered by their health sharing plan, Samaritan Ministries International. The surgeon screwed a metal plate into the bone, to hold it in place while it healed. Now, more than a year later, Leighton needed a follow-up operation to remove the metal plate.
Time for Troy to go shopping.
The unjustified price variation in health care is a big theme of my book, Never Pay the First Bill, and my health literacy videos, The Never Pay Pathway. Patients get charged wildly different amounts for the same type of services depending on where they receive the treatment, or their type of health care coverage. And studies show that you typically don’t get better health care by paying more. You might be able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per health care encounter by shopping around.
I walk through these details and strategies for you in my book and videos. Once patients understand the health care game, they can play it. The key is to shun the overpriced medical providers and give your business to those who have reasonable prices. The savings can be huge, as Troy and his family have discovered.
Troy is a father of seven who owns Greenberg Casework Company, a custom cabinet-making business. He and his wife caught on to the unreasonable variation in health care pricing about a decade ago. His wife needs a particular type of blood test every year. One year the local nonprofit clinic near their home charged $890 for the test. The next year the same clinic charged $1,280, for the same test! That didn’t make sense to Troy, so he started looking for different options. He learned about the company ANY LAB TEST NOW, which arranged for the same test at a clinic near their home for $125. Boom – that saved the family more than $1,000, just for that single test! That was a decade ago, so they’ve saved about $10,000 and counting.
It pays big to seek out the best health care prices.
“I’m at a point now where I am just entertained by the whole thing,” Troy said of seeking out the best health care prices. “It’s become a challenge and it’s become fun.”
To shop for the best price to remove the plate in Leighton’s arm, Troy started with a quote from the hospital where the original surgery was performed. They told him it would cost $15,000. The family’s Samaritan Ministries plan would have covered the entire operation, but Troy knew it was unwise to overpay. He needed to look for the best price.
He consulted his company’s health benefits advisor, Terry Shook, and got referred to Ortho Illinois, a surgery center in Rockford. Ortho Illinois publishes its prices and gave him a quote of $4,700. That’s a 69% discount off the hospital price!
Troy kept looking and found an even better price at Wellbridge Surgical in Indianapolis. Wellbridge is another surgery center that’s publishing its prices and offering better value than the typical hospital. At Wellbridge, the operation cost $3,675. That’s 76% off the hospital price – a savings of $11,325!
The discount came with some inconvenience. Troy’s wife had to drive Leighton five hours to Indianapolis for the operation. They left in the morning, had the surgery in the afternoon, stayed overnight in a hotel and returned home the next day. All went well. Leighton is back to playing basketball for his senior season.
Troy could have had the procedure performed at the local hospital, and his health sharing plan would have paid the whole bill. But he knows that would have been a big waste of money. There’s no magic money tree that funds people’s overpayments for health care. Even if your insurance plan covers something at 100%, overpaying comes back to bite us in the long run. Paying too much leads to higher premiums and deductibles for everyone in the following year.
“I’m looking at this as a ministry,” Troy said. “I want to be as responsible as I can with their money, knowing full well that’s going to come back on us if people aren’t responsible.”
Troy urges everyone to stop overpaying for health care. If employers and working Americans do not push back, he said, the unsustainable cost of health care is “going to get worse.”
The health care system is designed to lead you into paying more than you should. Be on guard and protect your money!
It’s often possible to get the high quality health care you need at a much lower price.
If you can, avoid getting treatment in the hospital. You’ll save money if you can go to an independent lab, imaging center or surgery center.
Do you have a Victory Story like Troy’s? Share it with me so I can share it with others. We want to be informed and inspired by your savvy health care tactics.
Employee engagement is the problem. Educating employees is the answer.
I’m a huge fan of Dutch Rojas and the direct contracting network he’s created, to provide patients with lower prices for the high quality health care services they need. He’s a visionary, so when I saw him on Ron Barshop’s Primary Care Cures podcast, I had to listen.
At the end of the interview, Ron asks Dutch what’s missing right now to make direct contracting simple for the buyer. Dutch said the biggest problem facing the industry is employee engagement. He said an HR team can have 500 great programs that benefit employees, but the employees need to engage with the programs for them to work. He said he’s seen the lack of engagement first hand:
“We have employers that have one case a month, and then we have employers where we get 80% of all possible cases,” Dutch said of his direct contracting business. “…No matter how good the prices are, it doesn’t matter if you can’t get people to use it.”
Employee engagement is the problem. Boosting the health literacy of employees is the answer. That’s the purpose of my health literacy videos, The Never Pay Pathway. They communicate the content of my book, Never Pay the First Bill, into a series of bite-sized, engaging videos. When working Americans understand how the health care system is working against them, they are motivated to engage with the solutions.
If you’re an employer or benefits advisor, check out the videos. Educating your employees will optimize their engagement. Contact me for more information.
Brokers and employers - join me for a webinar on Thursday!
I’ll be joined by an All-Star cast of benefits experts to talk about employee education at a webinar at 3 p.m. EST on Thursday, Oct. 27.
That’s in two days, so sign up now!
When employees are educated, they can be protected and lower health care costs, for themselves and their health plans.
I’ll be joined by benefits pros Stacy Fry, Lester Morales and Eric Silverman. It’s going to be a great time, so please sign up!
Check out the link to learn more and save your seat: https://go.thbhealth.com/live-webinar-health-benefits-communication-and-education
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All I can say now is thank you. The patient I talked to today has been in the hospital multiple times in recent months. He is getting flooded with bills while he’s still trying to regain his health. It’s a tremendous relief for him to have an professional advocate on his side. I told him it’s possible because of you, and he was taken aback by your kindness.
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