News

Seen At 11: Saving Money By Haggling For Health Care

Doctors performing surgery. (Credit: CBS 2)

Doctors performing surgery. (Credit: CBS 2)

CBS New York (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSNewYork.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSNewYork.com/Health

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — We all know health care is not cheap, but there are actually ways to cut those costs dramatically.

As CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reported Friday night, some people have saved thousands of dollars, and have even gotten doctors to compete to take care of them – all by haggling for health care.
“I walked out of that hospital completely paid for — not behind a dime, no collection agencies ,no insurance company hassles, no letters, no telephone calls – nothing,” said patient John Benjohn.

Benjohn did not have insurance when he had nasal polyp surgery. Instead, he paid a $25 fee to have doctors bid for the procedure online.

“In three days, I had five or six bids back,” he said.

The service is for doctors and patients and it’s called MediBid. Chief executive officer Ralph Weber explained how it works.

“The patients go and make a medical request. It’s send out doctors across the U.S. and some overseas as well,” Weber said. “Those doctors are asked to place the bid for that procedure. The patient reviews the quality of each provider, the location, and what’s included in the bid and price.”

Ultimately, Benjohn saved about $1,000 on pre-admission testing and almost $10,000 on surgery.

But Dr. Art Caplan is a medical ethicist, who added that even with skyrocketing health costs, choosing doctors based price alone may not be a sound way to get good medical care.

“Health care today, like it or not, is usually based on trust. I trust the name of the institution, or I heard that this person was good, or I checked around for other patients who have been there,” Caplan said. “But when you’re buying just on a bid with the cheapest price in health care, you don’t’ know if you’re getting a classic artwork or the forgery.”

Still, doctors such as orthopedist Dr. Robert Haar said bidding online, or charging predetermined cash prices for specific procedures, is working for him and his patients.

“It’s transparent. It’s simple. It’s upfront, and patient knows exactly what they need to spend in order to receive the full episode of care,” Haar said. “And so there is no small print or back-ended charges.”

Now, Benjohn pays cash for all his medical procedures, and said he is saving a bundle.

“I probably could have nickeled and dimed somebody, but the truth is you would almost feel bad trying to take it down because the fees were incredibly reasonable,” he said.

Using a doctor from a bid online, or paying cash for a procedure, may be best for people who do not have insurance or have a high deductible.

Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com: