How to Get a Better Deal in D.C. Healthcare
Paying out-of-pocket for medical procedures like an MRI sucks. Paying for them in, say, Chevy Chase, Md., sucks even more. According to a release put out today by the Angie's list of medicine, Healthcarebluebook.com, the disparity between what you'd be charged for an MRI of the cervical spine (no contrast) at a Rockville imaging center vs. a Chevy Chase center is more than $1,000 (it's $1,056 vs. $2,710 and a geographical difference of about 14 miles). Add this to the travesty that both places charge well over what the consumer-oriented site says is a fair price for the procedure: $628.
"There's no rhyme or reason to it," says Aimee Stern, who handles PR for the site and is based in D.C. "It struck us because people in Washington are talking about healthcare reform, but no one is talking about this enormous disparity."
Stern, however, is also not talking about certain topics that could be helpful to consumers. When I asked her which centers in Chevy Chase and Rockville her release referred to, she said, "I wouldn't feel comfortable" getting specific and that calling out over-chargers on Healthcarebluebook.com would take tracking them over time.
It's a fair point and, if you weren't pressed for time like I am, you could call around and figure it out. Also, this is a tad trifling when, after checking things out, this site is, indeed, providing a huge resource for people—and I'm not talking about the uninsured, solely. Most of us are forced into "consumer-directed" healthcare plans by our employers and face ever-growing deductibles. So get informed and don't take MRIs lying down.
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