You could save by paying your doctor cash versus using your insurance

Doctors, hospitals, labs, pharmacies may give discounts if you prepay bill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It sounds like a crazy idea to pay cash for doctors or medical procedures even if you have health insurance. But Consumer Reports says, with an increasing number of people in high-deductible health insurance plans, some medical service providers are offering discounts -- sometimes deep discounts -- to people who pay out of pocket.

“It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true in some cases,” said Consumer Reports Money Editor Donna Rosato. 

Companies like MDsave work with hundreds of doctors, hospitals and labs around the U.S. that offer discounts to people willing to prepay their bill.

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It’s a practice more common for diagnostic procedures like X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds, but the financial team at Consumer Reports found that many health care providers -- including pharmacies and some outpatient facilities -- offer discounts if you leave your insurer out of the picture.

“It’s especially beneficial for people who have high deductible health insurance plans, but you have to be careful. It could cost you more in the long run. That’s because when you pay out of your own pocket, that money will not be applied to your deductible or your out-of-pocket maximum. If you need a lot of health care later on, you could be starting from zero,” Rosato explained. 

So, run the numbers carefully and decide which way checks out before your next checkup. Consumer Reports says Healthcare Bluebook and ClearHealthCosts publish both insurance-negotiated prices and cash rates where available. 

Consumer Reports cautions that whichever way the numbers fall, don’t skip having health insurance. It protects you from financial shocks that could bankrupt you if you or a family member have a medical crisis that requires hospitalization or expensive treatments.

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