Web site allows consumers to shop for doctors by comparison - WKRN News 2

Web site allows consumers to shop for doctors by comparison

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. -

A Brentwood-based web site is offering medical patients a way to save money on common medical procedures.

HealthcareBlueBook.com collects data from what area employers report paying for various procedures their employees have and data from insurance providers to come up with a fair market price for various procedures.

The Web site then groups the comparisons by zip code and lists available providers.

That includes comparison pricing for x-rays, imaging, labs, physicians, dental, hearing aids and cosmetic medicine.

The procedures compared also include surgeries.

"Until now it has been hard for folks to get a simple answer of what something should cost," Michael O'Neil said, "especially before they go and get the procedure."

He continued, "We see between 500 and 1000 percent difference in some cases."

O'Neil is head of strategy and development for the Healthcare Blue Book. The Web site makes money by providing a premium employer site that has employer-specific pricing for in-network providers and benefits information.

The employer buys the information from Healthcare Blue Book and then gives employees access at no cost to the employee.

O'Neil said with the roll out of universal health care, also called Obamacare, health care costs are expected to increase. That includes insurance premiums, deductibles and the cost of care in general.

"I think more people, patients, consumers are being asked to carry more of the cost of their own care," he added.

That is the case for Richard Wolfson.

He works for a company in Franklin that recently changed his health insurance coverage so that it requires him to pay a higher deductible.

"You are effectively responsible for the first several thousand dollars of expenditures," Wolfson said. "It is your money so you want to know what things cost."

Wolfson needed a last minute MRI for his elbow and used Healthcare Blue Book to find a provider near his home.

He expected to pay around $1,000 for the procedure.

"I really didn't know how much an MRI should cost so I went on the Web site," he said.

He found out the fair market price for the MRI was closer to $500.

When he called one of the listed providers and told them he would be paying out of pocket they worked with him on the price.

"She said if you come in tonight around 8 o'clock I might be able to do a little bit better, and in fact they knocked another $100 off," Wolfson said. "It is like going to the grocery store. You don't grab a quart of milk off the shelf without knowing what its going to cost you."

In the end he paid $400 for the MRI that he expected to pay $1,000 for prior to checking the web site.

Governor Bill Haslam has decided not to extend TennCare to cover uninsured Tennesseans as part of the universal health care mandate.

Instead, he wants to take the federal dollars that would be spent to expand TennCare and use it to purchase private insurance for uninsured Tennesseans.

That would cover roughly 175,000 uninsured people.

The Obama Administration has not signed off on the governor's plan.

Healthcare Blue Book also offers a free mobile app that provides the same price comparisons.

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