Blood test: $522 or $19? We’re New Orleans journalists digging into the murky waters of health care pricing. Ask Us Anything!
We’re Jed Lipinski, a reporter for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, and Lee Zurik, a reporter for WVUE Fox 8 News.
For the past few months, we’ve been writing about the cost of health care in Greater New Orleans as part of our “Cracking the Code” series. With help from ClearHealthCosts, a New York-based journalism start-up, we’ve exposed how the cost of common medical procedures varies dramatically depending on your provider or health insurance.
Routine blood tests, for example, can be had at Touro Infirmary for $522, or for just $19 half-a-block away at Clinical Pathology Laboratories. At one local radiology facility, United Healthcare pays $1,005 for an MRI of the spine, whereas Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana pays just $464 – a difference of $541.
Through our reporting, we learned that the cost of most medical procedures is intentionally hidden from the public. As a result, most patients have no idea what they will pay prior to visiting the emergency room or undergoing an operation. This directly benefits insurance companies and health care providers, whose prices often have no relationship to the cost of the service itself. Overcharging is the norm.
Our goal throughout has been to enable consumers to make educated cost decisions about their health, the same way they can about food at the grocery store or fuel at the gas station.
Thanks for having us. Ask us anything!
Edit: Stories call, so we're stepping away from the keyboards. We'll be back to answer your questions throughout the day though, so keep posting them if you have them.