Websites give consumers bargaining power

In the era of health savings accounts and consumer-driven health plans, it more important that ever that patients have access to procedure costs before they get hit with a steep bill. But oftentimes even providers don't know what patients will be billed, because the provider can have many different reimbursement schedules for the same procedure.

But patients paying their own way aren't completely helpless. "Despite the complexity, the Internet has begun to open a window on this surreal world, allowing consumers to compare costs and, occasionally, to discover affordable alternatives," notes The New York Times. For instance, the Times reports the experience of one patient who was billed $900 for a CT scan. Figuring he had nothing to lose, the patient sent his bill to a claims adjuster--the website My Medical Control--which was able to bargain the price down $200 dollars. Expect to see such services become more popular as more consumers are forced to pay higher out-of-pocket costs.

For more on pricing transparency:
- read this New York Times article

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