As much as many consumers hate shopping for cars, that's nothing compared with trying to price out a medical procedure or a routine visit to the doctor.
Increasingly, workers are pushed into consumer-directed health plans supposed to encourage people to look for lower-cost medical services. This means more people will need to know what their medical services cost to determine whether it's worth switching to a consumer-driven plan.
So before you decide on a health plan, try the following resources:
¢ Humana Inc., in partnership with advocacy group Consumer Action, has created a free Web site (www.familyhealthbudget.com) that includes a family health budget planner. On the site you will find a number of tools to help you choose the best health care plan and benefits.
¢ WageWorks Inc. (www.wageworks.com), has a health care flexible spending account or FSA calculator. An FSA lets you set aside a certain amount of money before taxes to pay for qualified medical expenses.
¢ eHealthInsurance (www.ehealthinsurance.com) is a good source for people not covered by an employee health plan and who need to buy their own insurance.
¢ www.HealthDecisions.org gives information on 1,300 health plans and tens of thousands of agents and brokers nationwide.
¢ HealthGrades Inc. (www.healthgrades.com) sells reports on the cost of 55 medical procedures, based on regional averages of payments made by health plans. One report costs $7.95. Hospital ratings of 28 procedures and diagnoses are offered free of charge. A more detailed hospital report that looks at nearly 100 procedures is offered for $17.95 ($2.95 for subsequent reports).
Some employers provide HealthGrades reports for free as a benefit.
Finding the best health plan is definitely not as easy as pricing out a Honda Accord. But when it comes to your health care, spend at least the same amount of time calculating the costs as you do pricing out your new ride.