This website helps you find, negotiate lower health care costs for free

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Health care is expensive, especially if you don't have insurance or if you have a high deductible you have to meet before your coverage kicks in.

A new website called CarePay will help you negotiate lower prices for doctor visits and procedures.

What is it? 

CarePay.care launched two weeks ago, but you can already look up prices for 2 million providers across the nation.

The more people use it, the more data the site will have to help others.

The prices on the site now are what the providers receive for visits and procedures from Medicare and Medicaid, but even if you don’t have either, the government rates are a good baseline. They let patients know what the providers are willing to accept for certain services. 

When you register on the site, you can search providers by ZIP code to see prices and reviews for those physicians. As more people use CarePay, the creators hope that patients will upload their own self-pay invoices (after redacting their personal identifying information), so that the information can add to the pricing information for the public.

If you search on the site and don’t see a provider with a price you need, you can request a quote. A CarePay employee will call providers in your area to try to find one that will treat you at or as close to the price you need. 

“There's a lot of people that are uncomfortable with calling and asking for that type of information,” said Julie Westcott, of CarePay. “We're very good at it.”

Putting it to the test

Renee Hoffman is living with multiple sclerosis. She needs to have various doctor visits and multiple MRI's every year.

“Seven, eight, $900 for one MRI,” she said. “I have to have five different ones, so that is a lot of money, times five."

Hoffman registered on CarePay four days before the official roll-out of the website. She said she found the process to be somewhat onerous and a bit glitchy, but CarePay representatives said they have since fixed the issues. 

When she searched for an MRI in the Spring area, she only found one provider listed. The provider’s rate for an MRI of her brain was $3,203. That is no bargain. Next, she requested a quote through the CarePay website. In about 5 days, she received an email with the name of a provider who would do the MRI for $250 without contrast and $450 with contrast. The cheapest price Hoffman had found on her own was $475 and $575 respectively. 

Why does it work?

Wescott said doctors like self-pay patients because there's less paperwork, and they get paid when the services are provided.

Dr. Brian Flowers, an orthopedic surgeon at Sterling Ridge Orthopedics in The Woodlands, agrees that insurance billing often leaves patients and doctors confused about what procedures cost and how much they'll be paid.

Flowers is also a CarePay investor.

“This adds a little more certainty to that," Flowers said. "It gives the patients a chance to budget for whatever ailment they might have in a responsible manner ... and just take some of the stress out of the rehabilitation."

CarePay costs patients nothing, so how does the site make money? Westcott said phase two of the website will include transaction fees where you can pay for your doctor visit right on the site.

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