You’re going to pay more for your health care this year, through rising premiums, more co-pays, higher deductibles or balance billing, which is when your doctor bills you for what the insurance company won’t pay.
The average deductible for 80 percent of people with private insurance was $1,217 in 2015, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s 47 percent higher than the average deductible in 2009, and more Americans are choosing higher deductibles next year in exchange for lower premiums.
Bottom line: Health care spending will rise 4 percent in 2016.
Disturbingly, there is little correlation between what a procedure costs and how much a provider bills for it, according to researchers at Yale University. Health insurers, hospitals and doctors say they must charge whatever the market will bear to stay in business, which means also turning a profit.
If that’s the case, patients have no choice than to demand lower prices, expect fairer billing and, whenever possible, shop around for the best deal. Fortunately, that’s becoming easier to do, if you have the time to research prices and an inclination to haggle, said Dr. Patrick Neustatter, a physician of 45 years who wrote “Managing Your Doctor – The Smart Patient’s Guide to Getting Effective Affordable Healthcare.”
“There are these crazy discrepancies between the price in one place and another that don’t have any relation to what the procedure costs,” Neustatter said. “One of the big problems of the whole system is knowing the price. If you don’t know the price, you don’t know how to shop around.”
Your doctor probably doesn’t know how much a procedure will cost you, or what percentage of the bill your insurance company will pay. Many doctors tell me they leave that to the billing department and don’t want to know the cost because they only want to think about what’s best for you.