These days, more and more families are on "high deductible" health care plans, where you pay the tab out of an HSA, or Health Savings Account.
And suddenly, the cost of a doctors visit is important again, as procedures are no longer covered by a simple $25 co-pay.
With the new HSA-linked, high deductible health plans, you pay for everything -- except preventive checkups -- until you hit your annual deductible, usually around $2,500 per person.
But that's led to a new problem: Figuring out in advance what something will cost. The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the catch is that many doctors and hospitals won't tell you upfront what a procedure will cost: They tell you it depends on how complicated it is, and what feedback they get from the insurance company.
You might think twice about having a wart removed if you knew in advance it would cost $400, when you could first try to use an over the counter wart treatment from Walgreens for $15 instead.
Blue Book Lists Costs
So the report suggests you first check out a website called "Health Care Blue Book," (click here) started by a physician, which lists average prices for dozens of medical and dental procedures.
For instance, the site says.
- A 24 hour EKG test averages $290.
- Removal of a benign lesion or mole: $122.
- A dental crown: $855 (I thought my dentist was expensive until I read this, and realized his charges were reasonable!)
- You can even customize it by zip code, since procedures will obviously cost more in Beverly Hills than in Ohio.
Doesn't that Stink?
But from the "doesn't that stink" file, the fact that different insurance companies have different negotiated prices, so you could still be charged much more than what's in the blue book, if your insurer won't give you a lower rate on a procedure, and makes you pay "list" price.
Still, if you're going in for surgery or a lab test on a high deductible plan, it's nice to be armed with a little information on what something should cost.
As long as it's not an emergency, take some time to research, and see what the procedure you need will cost.
That way you're an informed consumer, and you don't waste your money.
For more Don't Waste Your Money reports, click here.