The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

October 26, 2013

Businesses, patients shop for better deals

Paul Freeman drove 600 miles last year to save himself — and his employer — thousands of dollars on his surgery.

Freeman’s insurer covered his travel costs and the entire bill because a medical center in Oklahoma City could remove the loose cartilage in his knee for about 70 percent less than a hospital closer to Freeman’s Texhoma, Okla., home.

At first, the community bank CEO hesitated because he thought the lower price would mean lower quality. But he knew if he didn’t make the roughly 10-hour roundtrip trek, he’d pay about $5,000 out-of-pocket.

“You immediately think, ‘Oh they’re going to take me into a butcher shop and it’s going to be real scary,’” Freeman, 53, says, noting that instead he had “a wonderful experience.”

People shop for deals on everything from cars to clothes to computers. Why not for health care too?

Insurers, employers and individuals are shopping around for health care as they try to tame rising health care costs. Companies are doing things like paying for workers to travel if they agree to have a surgery performed in another city where the cost is cheaper. They’re also providing online tools to help people search for better deals in their home market.

And some patients are bargain hunting on their own. Through a website called MediBid, people who pay out of pocket are soliciting doctors, hospitals and medical centers to bid to perform knee surgeries and other non-emergency procedures.

Patients who shop for care represent a tiny slice of the roughly $2.7 trillion spent annually on health care in the U.S., said Devon Herrick, an economist who studies health care for the National Center for Policy Analysis. But he and other experts expect this trend to grow, especially as more companies offer insurance plans that require employees to pay thousands of dollars before most coverage starts. These so-called high-deductible plans also will be among the cheapest options available on the public exchanges set up as part of the health care overhaul to enable millions of uninsured people to shop for coverage.

Advocates say all the shopping will help control medical spending.

“We waste an enormous amount of money in this country by overpaying for health care,” says John Goodman, an economist and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. “The only way to get rid of waste is to have people compete in a real marketplace.”

1
Text Only
AP story section
  • Iraq violence threatens OPEC's precarious balance NEW YORK (AP) -- The oil market has balanced out quite nicely for OPEC in recent years. Now, upheaval in Iraq shows that balance may be more precarious than it has seemed. Dramatic changes in oil production around the globe have offset each other ins

    June 13, 2014

  • Board of Trade Grain mixed, livestock mostly higher CHICAGO (AP) -- Grain futures were mixed Thursday in early trading on the Chicago Board of Trade. Wheat for July delivery was 1 cent higher at $5.9025 a bushel; July corn was 1.25 cents lower at $4.4075 a bushel; July oats were unchanged at $3.4625 a

    June 13, 2014

  • Health campaign among nation's costliest CHICAGO -- President Barack Obama's home state agreed to spend $33 million in federal money promoting his health care law, hiring a high-priced public relations firm for work that initially was mocked and spending far more per enrollee on television

    June 13, 2014

  • Some states roll back teacher tenure protections WASHINGTON (AP) -- Even before a judge's scathing ruling against California's teacher tenure policies, the once-sacred protections that make it harder to fire teachers already had been weakened in many states -- and even removed altogether in some pl

    June 13, 2014

  • Tigers' Scherzer outduels Sale CHICAGO -- Max Scherzer already has a Cy Young Award. Now he has a complete game. Scherzer tossed a three-hitter in his 179th career start for his first complete game and Victor Martinez hit his 16th homer to lead the Detroit Tigers to a 4-0 win over

    June 13, 2014

  • $40M casino for rural Iowa approved BURLINGTON (AP) -- The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has voted 3-2 to grant a license for a $40 million casino development that would be located in rural central Iowa. Supporters of the Jefferson casino burst into applause during a meeting in Bur

    June 13, 2014

  • Principal case leads to two hearings RED OAK -- Two hearings are planned related to a southwest Iowa school district's plan to fire a high school principal. The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil reported the effort to fire Red Oak High School Principal Jedd Sherman will be the subject of a

    June 13, 2014

  • U.S. split outgrows voting booth WASHINGTON (AP) -- Political polarization in America has broken out of the voting booth. A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds Americans are divided by ideology and partisanship not only when they cast ballots, but also in choosing where to

    June 13, 2014

  • Cubs' offense no help for Samardzija PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Samardzija has some advice his pitching brethren when it comes to facing streaking Andrew McCutchen. Don't. The way the Chicago Cubs' ace looks at it, trying to get the Pittsburgh Pirates' star out at the moment only opens yourself

    June 13, 2014

  • State to reopen Juvenile Home DES MOINES -- A district court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home, telling Gov. Terry Branstad he cannot unilaterally change a law approved by the state Legislature. Judge Scott Rosenberg said the home in Toledo was

    February 6, 2014

AP Video
Facebook
National News