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$800.00 vs. $39.30 – what would you do?

January 14, 2010

This story is true, it happened to me yesterday and I want to tell everyone I know that you and only you are concerned with your medical out of pocket expenses, question every penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and dollar because it could save you a ton of money!

I had an MRI scheduled at a well-known Hospital because my Doctor had ordered it and his office scheduled it. I had not thought that there would be any pricing differences between this location and a private location. Boy, was I in for an education!

I arrived at the hospital at 6:00 am for registration (no on-line save time registrations). They began my registration at 6:15am, at that time the person who was registering me (no personality, did not even greet me) told me that since it was a new year there was a new deductible ($1000.00) and that the MRI after insurance deductions would be $800.00! I was not prepared for this, and thought I had misunderstood and asked again how much was my out of pocket – in which he never batted an eye and said $800.00. I told him I could not afford that and that I did not want to go through with the MRI, I would discuss with my doctor. He advised that we could discuss payment plans and I again said no, I would discuss alternatives with my doctor.

I walked back to my car (in shock) and this commercial kept rolling around in my head that I had just seen the night before on TV. Two X-rays of skeletons talking about a better priced alternative for imaging services. I made it to work and Swaggled what I thought was the company’s name –MRI Imaging St. Louis. What Swaggled up was Metro Imaging of St. Louis – I was close and thank goodness for Swaggle – I even won a SwagBuck!

I was pleasantly surprised at how user-friendly their website was and that they had baseline prices listed! I picked up the phone and called their South County location and spoke to Kim (So nice and very knowledgeable). I told her the above story and she took down my information and told me that she would be back in touch when she assessed my insurance information with the cost for an MRI. I was impressed with the state of the art equipment at their facilities and that they had two of four (I believe) of the new OASIS Imaging systems in all of St. Louis – WOW! And they if you do not have insurance or co-payments their rates were lower than what my out of pocket expense was going to be at the hospital AND if you pay in cash the day of service you get a discount (if you do not have insurance or co-pays).

Within the hour I received a call back and was blown away by the difference in prices between Metro Imaging and the hospitals! The level of service I was already receiving from Kim was incredible and I was feeling better about being able to afford the MRI on my knee. Not only did they BEAT, by a long shot, what the hospital wanted to charge me, I will have preliminary results before I walk out of the door and it is included in the price. Had I gone to the Hospital my image interpretation would have been an additional charge by the radiologist. Kim made the appointment for me for that evening and I was able to, with the help of the insurance team, get all my paperwork switched to Metro Imaging. She also mentioned that I could save more time (this is a huge plus for me) by registering on-line – which I did.

I arrived at your South County location and was greeted by Randy (such a nice guy) and he had two papers for me to sign and that was it, I was early (I would rather be an hour early than a minute late) so Bear and I took a seat and waited. It wasn’t long before Linda (very nice and knowledgeable) called me in to get ready for my MRI. She explained everything perfectly.

In this day and time, it is quite rare to find companies that have it all and Metro Imaging has it all – Exceptional Customer Service, Knowledgeable employees who genuinely care, state of the art equipment and quality services. Consumers are being hit in all directions with higher prices, smaller paychecks, and to be able to maximize my flexible spending account to
help with my out of pocket medical expenses is very important. Kim explained everything to me and I was just floored (pleasantly by the way!) that my out of pocket expense went from $800.00 at the hospital to a co-payment of $39.30 at Metro Imaging.

I thank the Lord for reminding me of the commercial I had seen the night before and finding Metro Imaging.

I will definitely be spreading the word about Metro Imaging and their services, and telling my benefits department about this. People need to know they have a choice of where they go – it doesn’t have to be where the doctor’s office set’s you up, you have a choice, I have a choice and I will choose Metro Imaging from now on!

Now, I ask, why did my insurance company not refer me to Metro Imaging to begin with since it was the more cost effective for the insurance and my out of pocket expense? The Doctor’s office cannot because they are part of the hospital but the insurance could have mentioned it or called me when they were requesting pre-certification to advise me of a more economical choice.

Healthcare management is now in the hands of us the consumers – if it is not an emergency, take the time to shop around for the services – you have that right – you bet I’m using it from now on!

I just called and paid for my co-payment which was $39.30 which was my 10% responsibility of the insurance contracted rate of $393.00 for the MRI at Metro Imaging. Had I not balked at the charges being quoted to me and just handed over my flexible spending card, using up over 1/3 of our flexible spending for 2010!


Preliminary results from the MRI:

Baker’s Cyst on back of left knee, Fluid on the joint, Loss of Articular Cartlile under the Knee Cap. Okay, bone grinding against bone – OUCH! I have an appointment with the surgeon next Tuesday so I’ll keep you posted!


7 Responses to $800.00 vs. $39.30 – what would you do?

  1. SonyaAnn on January 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    When you said you walked out of the hospital after hearing the price all I could think was I would have collapsed! Then they really would have robbed me!
    Thank you for the reminder! It is such a terrible rip off to get any treatment at a hospital. We have to drive almost an hour to get to the hospital. And the scary thing is people get attacked in the parking lot! If you weren't in serious condition before, you will be when you get shot or stabbed. I thought I broke my ankle a few years ago and refused to go because I didn't want us to walk in the parking lot. True story. It swelled up and turned black and blue but it didn't crunch when I moved it. I figure it was a hairline fracture. How sad is that?
    Thank you for reminding me! Have a great weekend!

  2. Jennifer on January 16, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Wow, that is amazing! Way to go not letting the doctors push you into just getting it taken care of right then.

  3. Doreen on January 17, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    My Mom just had a total knee replacement. She had bone grinding against the bone and deteoriation, arthritis. She's been having rehab done and she's doing ok.

  4. Mum in Bloom on January 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    What an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing this important information. I'll be taking care of all my MIL's dr. appointments soon and will certainly remember this story. Wow, I had no idea.

  5. shopannies on January 30, 2010 at 2:15 am

    good for you

  6. Frugal Friend on January 31, 2010 at 4:29 am

    That is one Frugal tip! Thanks for sharing. I'll have to remember that and pass along the info!

  7. Jamie @ I Am A Money Magnet on February 25, 2010 at 5:21 am

    Not sure how I missed this post when it was published! What an incredible story! It absolutely pays to call around and ask how much a procedure costs!! Thanks for posting to Thrifty Tip Tuesday!

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