Finding out how much an X-ray costs sounds like a simple question. But it is actually very difficult to get an answer. In Massachusetts, a new state law requires insurers to be able to tell members how much a test, treatment or surgery will cost.
I threw out my back in September playing squash and went to the doctor. She sent me down the hall for X-rays. I may need more. I’m curious about what my costs will be, so I call my insurer, Blue Cross.
Blue Cross wants the procedure codes for each X-ray I may need, my doctor’s national ID number and the name, address and ID number for my hospital or lab, so it can consolidate all the charges into one estimate.
Jamie directs me to a form online. I call my doctor and get the info. If I want to compare prices, I’ll have to fill out separate forms for each X-ray lab. Then Blue Cross has 48 hours to get me an estimate. It takes me 20 minutes to fill out the form, so I only fill out one.
I went back and forth several times with my insurer, Blue Cross, and then it took two days to find out my X-ray would cost $147. So we in Massachusetts can find out in advance, how much everything from a blood test to open heart surgery costs. But in these early days at least, it isn’t quick or easy.
Martha Bebinger, KHN.