By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
As a long-time Mill Creek Pharmacy customer I was sorry that they closed last month. Whenever possible I support small businesses and figure that market forces keep me from paying too much. I was surprised to find out that I’m now saving 50% on my regular meds by using an online tool to find my new pharmacy.
America’s insurance-centric health-care system keeps us from being true consumers. Until recently it has been very difficult to shop around. Health-care consumerism is really still in its infancy.
About ten years ago I injured my wrist and went to an orthopedic surgeon recommended by my regular doctor. After an MRI scan the surgeon told me what was wrong and said he could use a common outpatient procedure to fix me up. When I asked him how much it would cost he gave me a quizzical look and said, “I really don’t know. You can ask one of my office assistants.”
It turned out that nobody in the surgeon’s office could tell me how much it would cost to repair my wrist. They told me to call the hospital where they would perform the surgery.
The hospital staff were equally ill-informed. After talking with a number of folks at the hospital and waiting a week for them to investigate, they finally got back to me not with a fixed price, but with a low to high estimate.
The hospital staff said that there were too many permutations and combinations involved and the actual cost for the procedure couldn’t be calculated until after it was performed. There was no way I could negotiate a fixed price to have get my wrist repaired.
Fast forward to today. Health care inflation is way down from the double digit rates from ten years ago in large part because we consumers have an incentive to shop around and some tools to do it with.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently reported, “The prevalence of high-deductible health plans is spawning a new class of healthcare shoppers: price sensitive and willing to consider that less may be more.”
It’s still difficult to get a health care provider to give you a fixed price for a surgical procedure, but there are good tools available to shop for prescription drugs. One of these is GoodRx, which provides consumers with detailed prescription drug costs.
You don’t buy prescription drugs from GoodRx, but you can find out how much local pharmacies charge for your medicine. You enter the name of the drug, your zip code and they give you the drug’s cost at local pharmacies. Easy Peezy.
Market forces are making it difficult for many small businesses, but consumers are the winners in this case.