Price Is Right: The Surprisingly Simple Way to Slash Medical Costs

Price Is Right: The Surprisingly Simple Way to Slash Medical Costs

Would you ever commit to buying groceries, an article of clothing or a car without knowing the price tag?

Of course not, you say—after all, why would you buy anything without first knowing what it'll cost you?

Yet, there is one major expense where we tend to go in blind: medical costs. And not being a savvy consumer is hurting our wallets.

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According to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, consumers who were unaware of what they paid for medical services ended up paying drastically more for them than those who were cognizant of prices beforehand.

The study looked at the medical claims of more than 500,000 employees at 18 companies between 2010 and 2013. All the employees had the chance to use an online tool that compared medical costs specifically for lab tests, imaging and visits to primary care doctors and specialists.

Turns out, those who actually used the tool to price-shop before their appointments ended up paying as much as 14% less for lab tests, 13% less for imaging and 1% less for doctor visits.

“Once you become a smart shopper, you use these services more often," study co-author Neeraj Sood told Politico. “This will change the way providers behave. They may become scared they’ll lose market share if they don’t lower costs.”

Of course, market dynamics can't take effect unless consumers take the time to get educated: The study found that for every consumer who took advantage of the price comparison tool, more than three didn’t actually use it. It’s unclear exactly why patients wouldn’t take advantage of finding lower-cost services, although one explanation could be that the idea that you can comparison shop for medical services is still too new.

If this research has got you itching to save on your next medical bill, check out these additional—and creative—ways to cut health and wellness costs.

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