Why You May Want to Pay Cash for Health Care, Even if You Have Insurance
Business + Economy

Why You May Want to Pay Cash for Health Care, Even if You Have Insurance


Consumers with high-deductible health plans may be able to save serious money by skipping their insurance altogether and asking hospitals to bill them the cash rate for simple procedures.

An L.A. Times article published Friday highlights a policy at some hospitals of charging far lower prices to uninsured consumers for things like blood tests and MRIs.

Related: Here’s Why Your Health Insurance Premiums Are Going Up Again

In an example highlighted in the article, a handful of blood tests cost an insured consumer nearly $300, but would have cost  less than a quarter of that if she had not used her insurance at all.

“This is one of the dirty little secrets of healthcare,” Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research told the L.A. Times. “If your insurance has a high deductible, you should always ask the cash price.”

Related: How Small Ideas Are Helping to Bend the Health Care Cost Curve

There is some risk to paying for health care with cash. Such payments do not count toward your deductible, so if you do end up having a catastrophic event, you’ll still need to pay out the full cost of your deductible out of pocket before your insurance kicks in.

In the past five years, consumer deductibles have risen nearly three times faster than premiums and about seven times faster than wages and inflation, according to a report last fall by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Forty percent of consumers with high deductibles relative to their income have put off getting medical care because of concerns about the cost of their deductible, according to a separate report from the Commonwealth Fund.