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Beware of variations in healthcare costs to make the right choice

 Compare healthcare costs to make the right choice (Photo: iStock)

If you have ever needed to pay for healthcare, you’ll be aware that costs can escalate almost uncontrollably. You’ll also be aware that costs can vary so much among different healthcare providers.

Sometimes you are none the wiser as to why one healthcare provider is many times more expensive than the other, even when many factors appear constant. Where the value of healthcare money lies can sometimes be difficult to work out. The most expensive facilities do not necessarily have superior quality compared to their more affordable competitors, or vice versa. 

A while back in California, a medical scheme realised they were paying anywhere between USD 20,000 to 120,000 for the exact same procedure across various facilities. And the more expensive facilities didn’t have better outcomes.

They came up with a reference-based pricing system and determined an average cost for the said procedure to be about USD 30,000. And that’s what they paid henceforth, saved more money, and care standards didn’t drop a single iota.

You too should always be well aware of healthcare costs upfront if at all possible. If you are consulting, find out how much it will cost you beforehand. If you need diagnostic tests, find out the cost well ahead of time.

The same goes for proposed medical interventions or specific treatments. If it becomes apparent your preferred healthcare provider is way too expensive, shop around for alternate facilities with similar quality. The principle should be value for your money and your health, and nothing else.

Healthcare costs should never be arbitrary. Many factors must be considered, the most important being the quality of service and overall outcomes. Quality is measured in many ways. Some health facilities will use internal metrics and give themselves a self-determined rating.

Others will open themselves to external scrutiny, thereby gaining authenticated and verifiable ratings. Whereas highly rated healthcare facilities may be more expensive, this in itself doesn’t guarantee value for your money and health. There still may be aspects of care that don’t measure up to the accrued costs.

Make smart choices about how much you are prepared to spend on your healthcare. Ask for the relevant information upfront. Why does it cost so much in one place and not the other? Is the quality, however defined similar, worse, or better?

Do the clinical outcomes of interest to you measure up to the projected expense? Once you are armed with such information, you can make a choice. More expensive may easily be justifiable to you. Equally, cheaper healthcare may also be appropriate, without necessarily leaving your overall health any worse.

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