How do you shop for health care?

Book of Business 2017 Cover 231x300 How do you shop for health care? PhotoThink about when you shop for a product or service – whether it is produce from your supermarket or a mechanic to repair your car – you likely compare prices and quality. You use the tools you know will help you be a savvy, smart shopper.

What about your health care? Price differences can apply to health care costs even within our own community. And because of the way health care prices are established, cost doesn’t equal quality the same way it does for other things you may shop for in your community. Costs for the same procedure vary from one facility to the next. An MRI can cost $5,000 at a local hospital, but less than $500 at a nearby imaging center. Whereas you know the price of something you may buy at the supermarket, we may walk into the doctor’s office not knowing the cost of a basic appointment.

These price variations and confusion put employers and consumers at risk of paying more than they should. And, a recent survey found that with rising health costs employers are looking for tangible, long-term strategies to manage health care costs.

So, what health care services are shoppable?

According to the Health Care Cost Institute, about 47 percent of health care services for commercially insured people are considered shoppable. These are procedures and medical services where consumers can evaluate one offering relative to another and, given choices with different prices, can choose a better value provider without great risk or inconvenience.

Vitals recently released the 2017 Book of Business report, which measures the shopping activity and savings achieved by employers and employees using the Vitals SmartShopper program. One of the Vitals’ solutions, SmartShopper pays employees cash rewards when they select health-smart and wallet-wise providers. Since 2014, the program has reduced health care costs for employers by $40 million, giving back $4.6 million in cash rewards to employees. Employees can shop and compare their health care to be savvy shoppers, setting up both employees and employers for success.

Whether your insurer offers SmartShopper or you just want to learn more about the providers in your area, find the tools and resources you need to be an informed health care shopper on