Buying a medical procedure online prior to visit now possible at LMH Health
photo by: Kathy Hanks
Consumers in Lawrence can now shop and pay online for certain medical procedures at LMH Health, much like they do with airline tickets, with the hospital’s new partnership with MDsave.
The online health care marketplace is geared to those who are uninsured, have high deductibles or health savings accounts. MDsave currently partners with several hospitals in the Kansas City area, as well as Wichita, Newton and Hutchinson. Now LMH Health has joined the group.
The for-profit company is the world’s first online health care marketplace, where consumers can shop and compare costs, according to Courtney McNamee, MDsave’s director of marketing. Launched in 2012, the website offers more than 1,550 procedures, working with 250 hospitals in over 30 states.
“MDsave is a company that works together with health care providers in hospitals or hospitals, with clinics, to help them establish a value price-point for services,” said Tom Wells, director of imaging services at LMH Health, who helped bring the hospital onboard.
While the service is geared toward the uninsured, more than half of MDsave patients are insured. However, 40% of them have a deductible of $3,500 or higher, according to information provided by Janice Early, LMH Health vice president of marketing and communications.
“Some plans have deductibles as high as $6,000,” Wells said. “LMH Health can now offer an MRI, with and without contrast, for $789, where they might have been charged $4,000 to insurance for an MRI.”
How it works
Once a physician has ordered a procedure, consumers can go to mdsave.com and search the site for local providers and compare prices. They find how many miles a hospital is from the ZIP code entered. When consumers have found the best price for a procedure, they push select to add it to the cart and proceed to checkout. They are sent a voucher that says they’ve paid, which they take to the provider when they go in for the procedure.
If something happens and the person does not have the procedure, all the money is refunded, Early said.
“This is good for consumers; it’s an expedited version of being able to get a procedure done, ” said Marc Schumacher, lead CT technologist at LMH Health. “If you talk to anyone who is using MDsave at another hospital, they say they like that they can go online and all they need from their primary care provider is a written order, and then they pay online and receive a voucher and schedule the exam and have it done. They don’t have to deal with any insurance bureaucracy,”
For now, patients at LMH Health can use the service for routine blood work and imaging — X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, nuclear medicine.
“It will just be the start,” Wells said. Some hospitals on the site are offering a price for everything from appendectomies to routine baby deliveries.
Another benefit for the consumer, Wells said, is that the price quoted and paid upfront includes all fees. Routinely, when a patient has an MRI there is the radiologist bill and the hospital bill, but the price quoted by MDsave covers it all.
The win for the hospital will be the ability to be paid immediately, instead of waiting sometimes up to months to be paid. Once the patient has paid for the procedure, MDsave turns around and pays the hospital within four business days, McNamee said. Before joining MDsave, LMH Health had devoted a lot of time and labor toward working to get paid, Wells said.
People can use PayPal, credit card or care credit options. The service isn’t available to those with Medicare or Medicaid, McNamee said.
Providing more options
“As part of the hospital’s overall strategic plan we have a commitment to consumerism and transparency, so we are looking for opportunities to implement that,” Early said. “This is just one of the ways we can do that.”
The co-founder and CEO of MDsave, Paul Ketchel, learned about the inefficiencies of the health care system during more than a decade of experience in the health care industry, McNamee said.
“I don’t think anybody thought health care could be this simple, but Paul made it as simple as shopping on Amazon or booking a flight with Expedia,” McNamee said.
At the same time, she said insurance companies love MDsave because they are keeping the cost of procedures down.
“People may be able to apply the payment to their deductible; however, eligibility is determined by the insurance provider, and it depends on the submission,” McNamee said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas declined to comment for the story.