New service could save you thousands of dollars on common medical procedures

Posted at 6:12 PM, Feb 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-25 18:12:53-05

WEST MICHIGAN--A new service created by a health plan could save people thousands of dollars on common medical procedures.

In January, Priority Health launched a "cost estimator" that compares the rates for local doctors and facilities when it comes to how they charge for certain procedures.

Joan Budden, chief marketing officer for Priority Health, said as more people begin to pay out-of-pocket for health care, the tool can help them understand why the costs continue to rise.

"There's a lot of different reasons: chronic diseases, pain management and end of life care," Budden said. "But, part of it had to be with just the variability of even the elective procedures."

In a December study released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it was found that nearly 43 million Americans have delinquent medical debt on their credit report.

Bill Ott, a father of three, said he uses the app often.

"After you delve in, just looking through some of the procedures it's amazing the difference...thousands of dollars of difference depending on the procedure and where you've had it done," Ott said.

On Tuesday, he even showed us how easy it is to navigate. He downloaded the Priority Health app that allows him to click on the tabs for the cost estimator. He then looked up the price of what it would cost across West Michigan to get a tonsillectomy. He typed in the procedure, then had the choice of selecting a doctor or facility to perform it. Once he clicked "facility," the app generated all the places where it could be performed and selected one at random.

"It says the estimated price is $5,500 but then it gives you the chance to see lower cost options," Ott said.

A red bar came up on his phone, indicating there's more affordable options out there. After selecting another facility he got a much better result. The second option was just over $2,000.

While the cost estimator is specific to Priority Health members, through Healthcare Bluebook, those who are not members can also use Bluebook to get average market rates.