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As you look to take control of your health care and spending habits, you should get acquainted with the concept of "shopping around" for health care services.  This can be done by doing cost comparisons, understanding the differences in quality of service and using a personal cost-benefit equation to determine when the expense is worthwhile.

Most of us spend time comparison shopping for new electronics or cars, but find the concept of shopping around for health care strange.  However, as health care costs continue to grow, we are seeing the need to control our own health care costs, and taking increased responsibility for health care spending decisions in an effective strategy to manage costs.

The consumer-driven health care (CDHC) trend is a step in the right direction.  Not only does it empower you to make the right choices for personal well-being, but it also sets the system up to work more efficiently by encouraging that kind of decision-making at every level.  Basically, it puts the incentives in the right places for individuals, providers and employers to take responsibility for the elements they can control.  This new reality gives you a reason to keep costs down by avoiding unnecessary care, staying healthy and participating in disease management programs.  Most importantly, it encourages you to comparison shop - not just for quality, value and service, but for price, by negotiating lower fees with physicians or insisting on generic prescriptions.

All this shopping around encourages healthy competition at all levels of the health care food chain, and that kind of competition leads to the development of tools to further help consumers.  For example, innovations such as call-in health advice (where an on-call nurse evaluates symptoms) help patients determine whether to rush to the doctor or wait a few more days.  Also, third-party providers are now offering databases of health information designed to help patients find and compare doctors and hospitals.  This type of information puts power into your hands and forces health care providers to compete for business.

On the individual level, you can save a lot of money by asking questions and searching for the most economic option that doesn't sacrifice value.  Examples may include:

• Asking about cost for treatments and procedures
• Asking about alternative treatments
• Requesting generic drugs instead of brand name
• Calling around to find the lowest cost procedures, treatments and medications
• Searching online resources for quality and price comparisons

Consumer-driven health care is an influential movement because it has the power to change the face of health care, starting with you.  If you spend less, your employer will spend less, and the reduction cost of health care will spread.  Comparison shopping may not be the whole answer to today's health care dilemmas, but it is certainly a move in the right direction.

This information is provided by The Bramlett Agency is to be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of an insurance professional.
Posted 11:03 AM

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