One of the more exciting things to watch in the self-pay healthcare market is the growth of new firms seeking to fill the needs of the uninsured, or those with high-deductible health insurance. Today I ran across a web site that currently focuses on connecting self-pay patients with imaging specialists offering MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, and other imaging services, Save On Medical.
This is an important area for self-pay patients – while many hospitals and doctors’ offices offer these services, they can often be at prices well above those offered by stand-alone facilities. According to the Save On Medical site, the number one medical service that patients shop for is diagnostic imaging.
The company describes their process this way:
Step 1 – Search for Procedures. As a patient, you will find Save On Medical if you search for terms such as “affordable MRI” and “cheap CT” on Google. Step one directs you to type in your City, State or Zipcode and select it from the drop down menu. Step two asks you to select the kind of procedure you need from the drop down list, specify the body part and then click the Start Search button to find savings on health care procedures.
STEP 2 – Compare Local Healthcare Providers. You will then see a list of the top 10 providers in your area, including their pricing and location. To view each practice’s amenities, Docometer Grading Score and additional information click their listing to view their profile.
STEP 3 – Request an Appointment & Create Save On Medical Account. To request an appointment at your selected facility, simply click the green Request Appointment Button above the Docometer Grading Score. If you are a new patient visiting Save On Medical, the button will say Join Today and you will be prompted to create an account. This is quick and easy and in no way means that you are signing your life away! After you request an appointment, you will receive an email confirming your request has been submitted. The provider will then contact you within 24 hours to confirm your appointment time.
STEP 4 – Submitting Payment. The provider will call to confirm your appointment time then, you will receive a request for payment. When you log back into your Save On Medical account you will click your name in the Waiting Room and click the green button that says Submit Payment. You can then safely and securely submit your credit card payment through PayPal, securing your Save On Medical price and appointment with the provider.
According to the company site, discounts of up to 89% are available, and having seen some truly outrageous markups coming from ‘chargemaster’ pricing practices by some hospitals and providers, I believe it.
I typed in a few zip codes and cities to see how wide a network of participating providers they have signed up. Here in the DC area, it didn’t look like there are any, but in the Chicago area there were several with prices for an MRI between $325 and $400, which represented big savings over the average price for the Chicago area of $1009. Miami, Florida has dozens of imaging centers as part of the network, priced generally between $350 and $500 (compared to the average price of $1,736 according to the web site), while Denver only has two, but also at significant savings – $525 and $563 compared to an average price for the area of $1009. Boston has 1 participating provider and Dallas has 3, both at considerable discounts over the local average, while Las Vegas doesn’t appear to have any.
While Save On Medicine only offers imaging services at the present, they suggest on their web site that they expect to begin offering providing a similar service in the future for other medical treatments that are frequently shopped for by patients, so they’re definitely a company self-pay patients should keep an eye on for other low-cost options.
Save On Medicine is just one company that is trying to find ways to match self-pay patients with providers willing to give real prices to the uninsured and others having to pay out of pocket for their own cost. MediBid is another, allowing patients to solicit bids from providers for their medical treatment needs, as is Sprig Health, currently available only in Oregon and Washington.
It’s too early to tell how any of these companies will fare, although there’s clearly a need for services that can bring self-pay patients together with providers that will give them real prices, not wildly inflated list prices that typically hit hardest those typically least able to afford it. Save On Medicine, MediBid, Sprig Health, and several other companies are leading the way in this area, and self-pay patients are certain to benefit.
- Save On Medical Breaks Record for Patients Booked (seaofinfo.com)