2. Shopping for health care is impossible
The Philadelphia Inquirer has some fresh evidence of just how hard it is to be a "smart shopper" for health care.
Details: This one centers around a female patient who needed a breast MRI and knew her insurance wouldn't cover the full cost, so she called the price-estimation hotline maintained by her insurer, UnitedHealthcare.
- United told her it would cost between $783 to $1,375. She'd had the same procedure a year before, and paid $1,500, so that seemed about right, per the Inquirer.
- Surprise! She got a bill for $3,237.
Why it works this way: Although the patient went to a facility United had recommended, and checked to see whether it was in-network and called about the cost, she didn't know she would have to pay more at an imaging facility that was part of a hospital, which hers was.
- Had she had the exact same test performed in a different facility, the price may have only been about half as much.
The bottom line: The health care system makes it almost impossible to compare prices, much less quality, and make informed consumer decisions.