How I Saved over $700 on a CT Scan

by on Jul 10 2012 - 12 Comments

Health care costs are dangerous for a couple reasons:

1) They can be unexpected

2) They can add up quick

While there are thousands of stories of how health care costs have burned holes in people’s wallets, today I have a positive story of how I worked the system to save over $700 on a sinus CAT (or CT) scan.

Let me start from the beginning

I’ve had sinus problems off and on for the past few years. I went to an ENT two years ago and was told I have a deviated septum. In plain English, a deviated septum is when the matter between your nasal passages is curved instead of straight. It can cause irritation and sinus infections.

So for the first half of 2012 I had nasty sinus issues I tried to wait out. I finally gave in and went to the doctor, got prescribed antibiotics, took them, and ended up back in her office two months later after there was no change. That’s when I was told I needed a CT scan of my sinuses.

A little more background:

I have an Health Savings Account (HSA) that is essentially a high deductible plan because the first $2-$3k come out of your pocket. There are many perks to an HSA, and I think anyone who has the options should sign up immediately and max out their contributions, but that’s for another post. Needless to say, I was more than a little concerned about how much a CT scan was going to cost.

I was originally sent to a radiology office within my doctor’s “network” of providers. I wasn’t about to show up until I knew how much it was going to cost.

Here’s exactly what I did to save $700 on my CT scan:

1) I called the office that scheduled the CT scan. I asked for a quote of how much it would cost for the CT scan. They of course “didn’t know exactly” but said it would be around $1,050 not including a possible “radiology fee.”

2) I logged onto my insurance provider’s website where they have a “Health Care Cost Estimator,” a fairly new tool for the company and a very new concept within the health insurance industry. I punched in Sinus Ct Scan into the search criteria, and was able to see the estimated cost. They estimate the costs based on claims they have received (smart use of data already available). I found out that there was a provider whose claim was estimated at approximately $350, which was about $700 cheaper than where my doctor sent me.

3) I called this provider and the insurance specialist working there told me that the total cost would not exceed $500. I was obviously very happy about this.

4) I called my doctor’s office telling them I wanted to go somewhere else because the radiology offices they referred me to were too expensive. I told them the place I wanted to go, and asked them to send my paperwork to that place.

5) I get the CT Scan at the cheaper radiology office

6) I get a bill in the mail a month and a half later for $337. Even less than I expected!

Total Savings: approximately $700

It took me probably two hours or so to go through this process. The savings were huge, especially considering that small time commitment. When dealing with health care, do not always assume you need to go where your doctor tells you to go! There will always be times you should follow your doctor’s exact directions. As you can see, I still did as I was told and got a CT Scan, just not at the same place she told me to. Consider doing a little research before shelling out thousands when you may be able to get away with hundreds.

A few additional notes:

  • Not everyone has access to a comparison tool I described. But thankfully this is the direction the industry is headed, and we should see more of these options in the future. If you do NOT have access to a tool like this, try to find a radiology office that is not connected to a hospital. The fact it is located in a hospital is going to raise the cost significantly. Google for radiology offices that are in more typical office buildings. That’s where you will find the cheapest rates.

  • Quality matters. The radiology office I went to for my CT Scan had many good reviews. I also had a personal recommendation from someone in the health care industry who said it was one of the best places you can go for radiology. Look online for reviews of the office you are considering going to, and always remember that price does not always mean quality. Think of my situation: A CT scan is a quick simple procedure. There is not a lot of variance between providers as far as “quality” of the CT scan. There is a major price difference, though.

How have you saved money on health care? What tips do you have for others looking to save money?
Photo by Liz West