With high deductibles, some drop insurance and pay cash – Today’s News

With high deductibles, some drop insurance and pay cash

VICTORIA COLLIVER

San Francisco Chronicle

09-02-12

Ed Lee routinely negotiates for his own health-care services, everything from the cost of a scan to an urgent-care visit — often securing discounts of 30 to 50 percent off the original charges.

Lee, 61, who lives in Palo Alto, Calif., and is a self-employed public-relations expert in the semiconductor industry, started bypassing his health insurance and paying out of pocket last year when he realized that premiums and deductibles were costing him more than $ 12,000 before his insurer paid a dime.

With that decision, Lee became part of a new breed of health-care consumer — people who pay such a large portion of their health costs that they’re questioning the value of insurance. And because they’re footing so much of the bill, they feel they owe it to themselves to get a decent price.

Sometimes that means shopping around for prices for blood work or offering to pay cash for a procedure in exchange for a discount.

Lee’s advice is simple: Just ask.

“Every time I’ve asked,” he said, “I’ve gotten some sort of discount.”

Patients, especially those covered by their employers’ health plans, used to be sheltered from much of the costs of health care because they paid little more than a co-payment.