By Ambar Pina
Consumers are struggling to compare medical prices and find providers
Not so long ago a friend of mine told me she was concerned about a pink patch on her arm she had noticed growing, itchy and burning all the time. She knew she needed to get it checked, but she had so many things going on and had no idea where to go or how much she would need to pay. She convinced herself for a while that it was nothing, or whatever it was, it could wait.
From time to time, she would be really concerned about it, but what to do? She was insured through her employer, but her plan had a deductible of $5,000. She knew she needed to carefully choose a medical provider, within her budget and close by, since as a head of household, she was constantly juggling family responsibilities and a full-time job. She made some calls and finally visited a private practice near her job.
The doctor told her she had a precancerous lesion and needed to treat it with cryosurgery. She was shocked and had so many questions — What is a cryosurgery? Is it bad? Is it a malign lesion? What are the best providers? Is it expensive? Do I have alternatives? Does my insurance cover that? What will be the out-of-pocket cost?
Her doctor explained every single aspect of the treatment, what to expect, risks and possible outcomes. Then, she started asking more down-to-earth financial questions since she knew in the back of her mind that her high-deductible plan was going to be an issue. Unfortunately, her doctor could not help her much with that. He gave her some referrals, but he didn’t know what she was going to pay and what were the best options in her area.
What to do now? She didn’t know where to start and still had so many questions. She asked friends, she got two or three names but not specifics on the procedure she needed. She tried the web, but she couldn’t find straight-forward, relevant information for her needs. She called some providers, but calls take time, and during working hours. She pretty much had only pieces of information, but nothing connected and useful enough to help her plan her next steps.
You have probably heard stories like this and, what’s more daunting, it can happen to anybody. Going through multiple rounds of exams and being diagnosed with a disease is a real deal. We worry not only about the medical issue itself, but also for all the choices we need to make in the process. The reality is health care costs are typically hidden and they vary significantly from provider to provider. Consumers have no safe place to find accurate information about prices and providers. It’s simply frustrating!
Many companies and nonprofits are trying to address these issues, with different solutions and approaches that vary broadly. At Faircare, we advocate for medical cost transparency by making prices available to everyone. We are developing a mobile app to shop for medical care. It’s free, accurate, easy to use and created with this consumer in mind.Together, we can make a difference. If you want to learn more, please visit our website www.faircare.io or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amber Pina is leading the outreach and partnership initiatives at Faircare, which is an early-stage mHealth startup in Silicon Valley using mobile technology to help consumers make more informed medical choices.