Saving money on surgery and more, negotiating medical costs

By Sabrina Squire - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – People are used to haggling on the price of a new car, or when buying a house, but how about negotiating prices on healthcare costs? In today's More Bang for Your Buck we look at a new tool for consumers that can help them cut their costs before going under the knife.

Before you call your doctor for a better deal you'll need to know how much you should be paying for medical procedures. That's where can help.

"It will tell you, by zip code, an average of what the insurance companies pay doctors or surgeons in your market," said Aimee Stern, Vice President of

It's helpful for both uninsured patients and those with insurance because high deductibles make your costs mostly out of pocket.

"People need to know what they should be paying, and that they should not overpay," Stern said.

Here's how it works: type in your zip code and the name of the procedure you need. Healthcare Blue Book will provide you a list of all the different charges that should be associated with that procedure.

"The physician's fee, the facility fee, the anesthesia fee if it's needed," added Stern.

If you're pricing a surgery, the main cost is the facility where the procedure is done. Healthcare Blue Book let's you compare the cost of having the surgery done in a hospital or an ambulatory surgery center. We checked the price difference on an ACL knee surgery in the Richmond market. By Healthcare Blue Book's estimate you could save $2,000 just by changing where your procedure is done.

"You can literally call the office and get someone on the phone and in most cases they will tell you what it costs. Then you can compare it to the bluebook, or you can start with the bluebook," she said.

You can even price tests like MRI's or cat scans.

"You're using the same machinery, you're getting the same test yet in one facility you could pay $2,500 and in another you could pay $5,000," said Stern. can also come in handy when you want a procedure that your insurance won't cover like cosmetic surgery.

The prices are based on an average of what insurance companies have paid on claims in the past for the procedures. You may not always get the Healthcare Blue Book price but at least you'll know what the going rates for medical costs are.

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