One of the biggest issues NBC 5 Responds hears about involves bills from doctors and hospitals. That simple ER visit could wind up costing you much more than you ever expected.
But there's a new service deployed in North Texas that claims it will help keep that from happening and save you money.
Sharon Trugetman says time and again she fought with her health insurance company about coverage for tests and specialists.
"Every doctor that I elected to go to wouldn't accept it," Trugetman said.
Smart Shopper helps you find doctor's and hospitals that will give you the same services at a much lower price. They've teamed with with insurance companies around the area to offer the service, including of the the biggest, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.
"The cost of a single infusion, typically people will need three to four, it's $10,000 at a hospital. If you go to an infusion center, it's $1,500," said the company's founder, Mitch Rothschild.
Smart Shopper helps you find the cheaper treatment center. Your employer and insurance company spend much less, and then share the savings with you.
"We'll give them back a share or savings of $100 to $500," Rothschild said.
Air Medical Group in Lewisville says it's helped save money and make their employees ask smarter questions about services they received.
"We all go to the doctor and he says you need 22 tests and we say, 'OK sign me up'. We need to ask questions. What are the tests? Do I really need it? Is it relevant? Can you do something else?" says Brenda Babb, benefit manager of Air Medical Group.
Smart Shopper isn't out there for everyone. Your employer has to ask for it, but it's a simple add to Blue Cross Blue Shield's insurance plans.
Your employer saves the most money. But to eliminate surprise billing and get as much as $500 cash back, that was good enough for Sharon Trugetman.
"I feel comfortable going there and leaving there, that I don't have to pay so much for it," she said.
NBC 5 Responds spoke to the Texas Medical Association about Smart Shopper. They said having access to cost savings is important and don't think it's a bad idea. But here's what you should know:
- Make sure you're comparing "apples to apples." Confirm that the tests are the same and that your doctor knows where you're going. The doctor needs to be able to get the results.
- And you don't need to have Smart Shopper to do this. Any time you need a treatment, surgery or some other significant cost, call your insurance company. Many will point you to the right place with lower rates.
- If you want to find out if Smart Shopper is part of your health insurance plan, just ask your benefits provider.