Price Shopping for a Medical Procedure? Read this First

A recent knee injury cut short my sand volleyball career.  And by recent I mean about 18 months ago.  And by career I mean the two or three times I played sand volleyball in my life.  Anyway, I landed in kind of a twisty awkward way and heard a pop.  I also felt a jolt.  Then I felt what it was like to fall down in cold sand.  Being the diligent and dedicated athlete I am, I immediately went to an orthopedic surgeon for a diagnosis and recommended treatment.  And my immediately, I mean 18 months later.

The good Doctor ordered an MRI.  I knew from some asking around that an MRI ranges from five or six hundred to over two thousand dollars.  Now I am a firm proponent of the idea that the reason health care costs are increasing at the pace they are is that nobody price shops for medial procedures. Most people just go to wherever the doctor tells them to go without regard for price.  I, however, am committed to doing my part to reign in health care costs; I am a champion of social responsibility to ensure efficiency in health care.  And by champion, I mean that I have a six thousand dollar deductible health plan and would pretty much be paying for this MRI out of my pocket.

How hard could it be to shop around for the best price on and MRI?  Should be a snap.  There’s the internet, there’s my insurance company, there’s the providers themselves.  All great tools and great people with incentive to help me in my noble quest to bend the healthcare cost curve (i.e. keep more money in my pocket).

Spoiler alert:  it was not at all easy.  Rather than attempt to knit together the events into a brilliant and dramatic narrative, I shall simply list the steps I took and the results.  I think you will get the point.  Oh yeah, I did end up saving around four hundred dollars.  Had my motivation been pure and noble, I would have given up about three steps in.  Since my motivation was to keep money in my own pocket, I persevered and saved some dough.  Without further delay, here is the saga of the  price shop…

9/26/11: Jumpy, twisty volleyball move injures our hero’s left knee

2/9/13: Jumpy, twisty dance move further (and more severely) injures ligaments and bones related to our hero’s left knee

2/26/13: Vinson visits IndyOrtho. Dr. Brokaw orders an MRI after examination reveals possible tear, definite sprain of ACL in left knee

2/26/13, 1:29 pm: Vinson calls Anthem.  Anthem (after some confusion) tells Vinson that “OpenSided MRI”, 15 miles away, offers MRIs at the lowest cost in the area at about $400.  Anthem is not able to tell Vinson the cost of an MRI at IndyOrth or its affiliate, Indiana Orthopedic Hospital, but guesses that Community Hospital’s $700 cost may be close to IndyOrtho’s

2/26/13: Turns out that OpenSided MRI is closed, like, for good.  Their number has been forwarded to the Center for Diagnostic Imaging.  After several transfers, Vinson finds out that and MRI at CDI is $815.

2/26/13: Another call to Anthem.  Anthem is confused.  OpenSided MRI is closed?  Well, hell.  So anyway, there’s a place called ProScan that is around $415.  Thanks, person that answers the phone.

2/26/13: Vinson logs an inquiry on the ProScan website, seeking a quote for an MRI

2/28/13: ProScan finally calls Vinson.  Leaves message (turns out Vinson has other obligations than pining by the phone)

Alright, I warned you that this would be rough.  I have lost my train of thought, not to mention my notes.  I promise to finish this saga at some point.  I may even re-thread it to make it somewhat coherent.

Anyway, that’s a little something I like to call, “Day 2 Done”.


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