When it comes to the rising cost of medical care, Dr. Linda Girgis is quick to identify one of the most problematic symptoms: Patients who keep their mouths shut.
As consumers get savvier about shopping for health care, some are finding a curious trend: More hospitals, imaging centers, outpatient surgery centers and pharmacy chains will give them deep discounts if they pay cash instead of using insurance. When Nancy Surdoval, a retired lawyer, needed a knee X-ray last year, Boulder Community Hospital in Colorado said it would cost her $600, out of pocket, using her high-deductible insurance, or just $70 if she paid cash upfront. When she needed an MRI to investigate further, she was offered a similar choice—she could pay $1,100, out of pocket, using her insurance, or $600 if she self-paid in cash. Rather than feel good about the savings, Ms. Surdoval got angry at her carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “I’m paying $530 a month in premiums and I get charged more than someone who just walks in off the street?” says Ms. Surdoval, who divides her time between Boulder and Tucson. “I thought insurance companies negotiated good deals for us. Now things are totally upside down.”
Until she lost her job and health insurance, Karen Bruce never thought twice about visiting hospital or commercial laboratories for the regular blood tests she needs to monitor her level of blood-thinning medication. Once she had to pay for the tests herself, however, she needed an alternative. Bruce, who lives on Indianapolis' Southside, found it at a Greenwood storefront, Any Lab Test Now. A national chain, Any Lab Test Now offers a variety of medical tests, including lipid panels, paternity tests, drug tests and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, at a fraction of what most hospital and other major laboratories charge for the service. In the past four years, Bruce estimates, Any Lab Test Now has saved her hundreds of dollars. At Any Lab Test Now, she pays about $20 a test, much less than what the hospital lab charged.
In 2000, AG Lafley became CEO of the Procter and Gamble Companies. In assuming the role of CEO, he quickly grew frustrated that he and his fellow executives were spending too much time in corporate headquarters divorced from the people who really mattered: the consumer. So he instituted the practice of meeting with consumers to better understand their experience with Procter and Gamble’s products. Whether it was Crest Toothpaste, Pantene Shampoo, or Charmin Toilet Paper, Lafley wanted to know: do you love our products or hate them? Why or why not? And from those conversations, he learned. He learned what was working—and what wasn’t—and brought those insights to serve his customers better and grow Procter and Gamble’s business. Lafley’s message to the company: We assume too much, we ask too little.
WILMINGTON, Del. --- Cristy Beckman, who suffers from chronic pain in her spine and osteoarthritis, spent six hours in a doctor's crowded waiting room in severe pain. That was enough, she decided. It was time to make a drastic change in how she was treated. At about the same time, Dr. Christina Bovelsky opened Peachtree Family Medicine in downtown Middletown, Del., with a unique approach to medicine. Instead of dealing with traditional insurance, co-pays and deductibles, her patients pay a one-year membership fee that includes an annual physical exam and between two and four office visits. Small procedures such as nebulizer treatments, strep tests and electrocardiograms are included. Beckman, 46, became one of Bovelsky's first patients. "There's an absolute peace of mind that someone is looking after your healthcare," Beckman said. "I don't think there's any way I could do something different."