Options for self-pay patients continue to grow, and today I wanted to briefly describe one that that could be a great resource for anybody who is paying directly for non-primary, non-urgent health care, whether they’re uninsured, have a high-deductible plan, or even some of those who have more comprehensive insurance.
I’d actually seen this company’s web site several months ago, in what looked to be a ‘beta’ version, meaning that it looked like it had launched without really being able at that time to provide much in the way of services to most people. Not that the product or concept wasn’t good, it just had a very limited range of services, at least in my opinion.
That’s changed. The site, OkCopay, now serves as a platform for people looking for prices on a variety of healthcare services and is in markets across the country.
The site’s focus is primarily on what many consider non-primary and non-urgent care, such as vision and dental care, lab and radiology services, and acupuncture.
Here’s how the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal described OkCopay when they began offering services in the Twin Cities region:
OkCopay Inc., a Chicago startup that lets consumers comparison shop for medical procedures online, entered the Twin Cities market this week.
The company, founded by J. Touré McCluskey, targets people who don’t have insurance and will have to cover the full cost of medical care. It also focuses on consumers shopping for pricey elective procedures — such as Lasik eye surgery — that aren’t typically covered by insurance.
For the Twin Cities market, the company has data posted online for procedures stretching from wrist x-rays (prices range from $65 to $230) to liposuction (pricing ranges from $2,400 to $5,500). It also has pricing for dental care. OkCopay leaves primary care out of its listings because it’s too difficult to compare costs, McCluskey said, though it does feature routine procedures like flu shots…
One of the best features of OkCopay, in my opinion, is that they allow you to search geographically for a wide range of services, allowing you to see which providers are closest to you as well as what the self-pay price is for the service.
In my case, I searched for ‘vision exam/basic eyeglasses exam with dilation’ and entered my zip code, 22315. In about 1 second, I had a total of 36 providers within 10 miles of my zip code listed, with prices ranging from $36 to $245 (all but 5 of the prices were under $100, and 11 were under $50).
The listing also provides some pretty helpful information. There’s a link to Yelp, which offers patient reviews of the provider (not every provider has a Yelp review, however). You can also click on the ‘+’ icon to the right of each listing and get information (if available) including the prices of additional services, the names of practitioners, and a link to their web site.
There’s also a helpful box to the left of the listings that provides additional information on the service you’re looking at and how to get the most value. In this case, for an eyeglass exam, the text in the box provides the following information and advice:
Prices For a Basic Eyeglass Exam Include:
Basic Eyeglass Exam
Eye Dilation (unless noted)
Any applicable cash-pay and uninsured discounts
Potential Additional Costs:
Digital retinal scanning normally costs an additional $20-50. Always ask for your prescription and PD (papillary distance) measurement before leaving. Taking these steps will make it easier if you decide to buy your eyeglasses elsewhere.
An interesting part of OkCopay, as explained to me by the founder, is that they have teamed up with Groupon and other ‘deals’ web sites to offer health care deals that are marketed through their sites. They also appear to offer unique deals available only through OkCopay.
One section of the web site is called ‘Deals.’ Clicking on that link takes you to a page with icons for 13 cities, including Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Washington DC. Click on the icon for a city and it brings up the types of services for which there are currently deals available.
In the case of Washington DC, there are currently deals available in the areas of acupuncture, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, lasik surgery, and vision exams. Some of the deals available included one hour of acupuncture for $29, liposuction of one area for $1199, and a wide range of dental services including exams for between $19 and $99, teeth whitening for $39 to $189, and dental implants for $1,900. Most of these deals were through Groupon but there were also several available through Amazon Local and Valpak.
It’s easy to see the value that OkCopay provides self-pay patients. One of the interesting things is that the site focuses on services that are frequently not covered by insurance, meaning it is a great resource not just for those who are uninsured or who have high-deductible plans, but also people with more comprehensive insurance that doesn’t cover, say, dental services or eye exams.
There is one thing about OkCopay that self-pay patients should keep in mind. While the site provides the prices that people paying directly should expect to pay, that does not mean that all of the providers listed are ‘cash-only’ or ‘cash-friendly.’
Case in point, the eye exam provider that gave a price of $245 for self-pay patients – I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that’s a provider that simply gave OkCopay their ‘list’ price when they called and asked for a cash price, while their insured patients receive the typical 50% or 75% ‘discount.’
This isn’t really a drawback, but it is worth keeping in mind. Using a little common sense should be enough for people to figure out which providers are able to cater to self-pay patients, and which are stuck in bureaucratic medicine.
There are a couple of other sites that offer similar benefits to self-pay patients, including Clear Health Costs, DocCost, MDSAve, and PricePain. OkCopay is a welcome addition to the self-pay health care market, and I encourage anybody needing to pay directly for their health care to consider it and these other great sites!