HOUSTON – Every smart consumer knows in order to get the best price on anything you have to do some research. Shopping around for health care, though, is not the same as shopping for cell service.
As part of our weeklong series: Wake up to savings on health care, consumer expert Amy Davis is showing you a website that can help get you started when you need to schedule a surgery or procedure.
We've shown you several prescription drug comparison websites to help you save money on medicine, like GoodRX.
The website Clearhealthcosts.com works the same way. Consumers can also share their own information to make the database more robust.
"It's one of those industries were pricing is like a black mystery box," explained Dr. Vik Rajan, owner of Houston Patient Advocacy. "You don't know what it is until the service is already done. And then after the fact, ta-da! Here's your bill!"
Clear Health Costs is a good starting point for consumers scheduling procedures or office visits.
When we typed in "cardio stress test" and our ZIP code, we discovered the cash price varies widely.
UT Physicians charges $581 for the test; while Memorial Hermann Medical Group charges $213. Dr. Edward Leahy on Garth Road in Baytown charges just $125.
Most of the prices on the site were compiled by journalists simply calling providers across the country in 2015, but Clear Health Costs also likes consumers to share the prices they paid.
You can contribute prices that you have paid at Houston doctors and hospitals on the website.
Your information may help the next person shopping around.
It's easy to tell which prices are provided by community members and which were researched by journalists with the site. The information collected and confirmed by Clear Health Costs journalists are in orange with a flag that read "PriceCheck Journalist." The prices from consumers are in blue with a flag that says "Community member."
Even if you are using insurance, it's good to know the cash price for any procedure. It lets you know what a provider will accept. In some cases, depending on your insurance and deductible, it may be cheaper to pay for a procedure outright.
Clear Health Costs has prices posted for 30 of the most common procedures.
Texas Healthcare Costs is managed by the Texas Department of Insurance. The website lets you search the same way.