Recession forces more patients to compare healthcare costs

With money tight, an increasing number of patients are researching and comparing healthcare costs before choosing a healthcare facility.

More than 30 states now require hospitals and other healthcare providers to post medical fees online, while an increasing number of insurance companies also post price information on their websites. Although slogging through the information is time-consuming and more than a little frustrating, more consumers are making a point to shop for medical care more like they would for a car or a major appliance.

Insurance companies like Aetna, CIGNA, and UnitedHealth Group supply some information--such as out-of-pocket costs of an MRI--on their websites. In fact, some in the field report a sort of race to develop the best and most useful tools for comparing prices.

Aggregators of this information, such as pricedoc.com, also are springing up. But it can be difficult to compare apples to apples on these sites, and patients may not know to look up all the costs associated with a certain procedure. This could lead to confusion and dissatisfaction when actual healthcare costs end up higher than projected.

For more information:
- read these articles from the New York Times  and the Associated Press

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