Consumer Alert: Medical care is a factor driving up inflation. Here are two tools to make sure you’re being charged a fair price

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The price we pay is still going up.  The August inflation numbers are out and it’s not good.  Gas has gone down in Rochester, 50 cents in a month.  But overall inflation is still climbing.  We can point to three key drivers of inflation in the month of August – food, rent and medical care.  And those three are primarily responsible for the increase in overall inflation.

In August, you paid 8.3 percent more for goods and services than you did a year ago and .1 percent more than you did in July.  Analysts expected inflation to go down month over month.

“I think when we look back at hospital costs and health insurance premiums, this is a trend that’s been going on for a while,” said Nick Vinzant, Senior Analyst at Quote Wizard by LendingTree. “We saw expenses start to go up. We saw insurance start to go up.  COVID really fast-tracked this. And even though the pandemic isn’t front page news anymore, at least not right now. I think we’re going to start seeing the lingering effects of how much this is going to cost as we move forward.”

That’s right. He said we’re going to suffer financial long COVID.  But Monday, I showed you tools that allow you to shop around.

I compared my cost of a pelvic CT scan at Strong, Rochester General Hospital and Borg & Ide.  And at Borg and Ide, I would save well over 500 bucks because it’s a freestanding imaging center with less overhead than a hospital, so costs are lower. One of the reasons it’s so difficult to know what things actually cost is because health facilities negotiate prices with your insurer. So the same procedure may cost more at one facility than another.  That negotiated rate affects you because you may be paying a portion of that fee.  In my case, 20 percent.

That’s why I love Healthcare Bluebook.  You can put in your zip code, and it will tell you the average cost in your area that insurers are paid for various health services. According to Healthcare Bluebook, in the Rochester area the the average amount insurers are paid for that same CT Scan is $439.

Another great website you can use is Fair Health Consumer.  And its estimate for the average cost of that CT scan is very similar in the same range, $464.  

According to its website, Fair Health reviews the claim data of more than 38 billion private claim records and 37 billion Medicare claim records.  The state of New York as well as other states use Fair Health’s records to help guide the creation of laws that involve healthcare.   So you may ask, “What if I find out my hospital is being paid far more than the average rate?”  You can choose another facility. You can call your insurer and ask tough questions. Information is power.