Health Insurance|September 10, 2009 7:07 PM

Doctors offer healthy discounts

You can bargain with your doctor. And your hospital.

Instead of being scared away from needed medical care by high prices, talk to your health care provider up front, and ask for a discount.

Every one of ten medical offices contacted by Colorado Public News offered a discount ranging from 10 to 50 percent for those who lack health insurance. You can do especially well if you offer to pay at the time of service.

Some will even give you care for no cash up front, if you promise to pay installments.

They’re not just giving out charity. If you pay cash, or use your credit card, your doctor doesn’t have to pay staff to deal with the endless paperwork and arguments of a health insurance company. The doctor is saving a substantial amount of money, and passing it on to you.

New West Physicians, which has 13 primary care physician clinics throughout the Denver metro area, deducts 30 percent from bills for uninsured patients who pay cash or use their own credit card at the time of their visit.

“It was more than worth it to us to get the cash upfront,” said Ruth Benton, CEO of New West Physicians. “We looked at the equivalent cost to bill insurance companies, and took that price off of the service.”

Denver Cardiology offers a 50 percent discount for the uninsured, cutting the cost of a $375 heart exam to $147.50.

Panorama Orthopedics and Spine Center, which has clinics in Littleton, Golden and Westminster, as well as trauma care at St. Anthony Central hospital in Denver, offers a variety of discounts.

Uninsured patients can receive 45 percent off their bill if they pay at the time of service. For those who can’t pay immediately, Panorama offers a 25 percent discount if the patient agrees to cover the bill in three payments.

“We’ve found it to be very beneficial to those without health insurance,” said Eric Worthan, CEO of Panorama. “We have more people using the services since the recession.”

But you may need even more help to cover high deductibles or the full cost of extensive orthopedic care and surgery. So Panorama offers financing, in partnership with Sunwest Bank.

Roughly 85 percent of Panorama’s patients who have applied for the financing have qualified for it, Worthan said.

You may even find free care, especially for specific special services. The University of Colorado Cancer Center now offers free colon cancer screenings for uninsured patients 50 and older, and also for uninsured individuals under the age of 50 who have a family history of colon cancer.

It’s called the Colorado Colorectal Cancer Screening Program and is offered through clinics that are in partnership with the University of Colorado Cancer Center throughout the state. The program is paid for through the state’s tobacco tax revenue and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“We just expanded it to cover the southwest corner of the state in the San Juan area, which is great because it’s now all over the state,” said Lynn Gorham, spokeswoman for the university.

For mammograms to screen for breast cancer, Denver-based Sally Jobe Invision provides 20 percent off for “pay-at-the door” uninsured customers, said Ed Field, director of outpatient services at Sally Jobe. Sally Jobe would not give actual prices, however.

Hospitals have such discounts too.

Centura Health’s 12 Colorado hospitals offer 30 percent off to uninsured patients for almost all medical services, excluding cosmetic services, said Sarah Ellis, manager of public relations and marketing at one of them, Porter Adventist Hospital.

“Our financial counselors work with our patients to see if they’re eligible for discounts,” Ellis said. “We also provide a 15 percent prompt discount for those who are able to pay it off in 60 days. It’s significant, if they’re able to pay it off quickly.

Medical Office & Procedure Cost Discount Reduced Price
Panorama Orthopedics, basic visit and X-ray $555 to $665 45 percent $250 to $300
Porter Adventist Hospital basic ER visit $240 to $320 30 percent $161 to $224
New West Physicians basic office visit $100 to $150 30 percent $70 to $105
Denver Cardiology basic office visit $375 50 percent $147.50
University of Colorado colonoscopy $1000 free to qualifying patients
Low-priced medical providers
Costco Optical eye exam $60
After Hours Urgent Care basic $40
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  • Offering discounts for patients who are not covered medically would be really an advantage. Providing health services along with discounts is appreciated.

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