A Houston company claims to save patients money on their medical procedures by allowing doctors to bid for their business.
Regina Warner, of Colleyville, found herself in need of medical services last Easter.
"I'm doubled over in pain. I used heating pads. I took ibuprofen. I could not get relief. It felt like somebody was punching me stabbing me," says Warner as she describes what doctors eventually diagnosed as a gall stone.
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"It was a relief in a way to find out it's a gallstone, but then, as I go on and find out what it's going to cost and everything, that wasn't a relief," says Warner.
"It was going to be $25,000 and I contacted insurance and they're like, 'we're only going to pay $7,800,'" said Warner. "That's crazy. You know, we pay a high premiums and we have the best insurance, I thought, so why would it be this way and I was in shock," she added.
Warner's story is much like the many that Vivian Ho, Director of the Center for Health and Bio-Sciences at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.
"One of the problems we have now is there is not enough price transparency for patients who were trying to go out and get healthcare," said Ho. "Healthcare is only becoming more and more expensive for patients. Even if you get health insurance from your employer, the employer is shifting more of the cost to patient's out-of-pocket, so it's very important to be able to shop for healthcare based on price."
Enter Ralph Weber, CEO of Houston-based Medibid.
"The most powerful negotiation tool is the power to say no," said Weber.
"Our mission is to give better quality healthcare at a better price with more choice and more access," he added. "Let's say you need a gallbladder removal. Go online to Medibid.com and you enter the procedure that you need. We will tell you how much is covered under your health plan and then you can create the bid."
He says, at that point, doctors will submit bids for the procedure.
"You're going to see the date the bid was made, how long it's good for, the location of the provider. You're going to see their quality rating from one to five stars and where that rating came from," said Weber.
"You'll look at the quality, the price and the location and you make your choice. That simple," he added.
Warner used Medibid for her gall bladder surgery and received bids from qualified doctors across the United States.
"Oklahoma came in $5,865. California was $6,600 and New York was $6,000. New York was cheaper than what I can find in Dallas," Warner said.
She ultimately went with a doctor in Nacogdoches for a procedure that cost $4,800 and didn't require her to come out of pocket for anything.
"I didn't have to pay a dime. In fact, I received $1,000 in travel money," said Warner.
Employers partner with Medibid as a part of the health care coverage offered to their employees.
Right now, Weber says 45 companies in the U.S. use Medibid's services.