The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that headline inflation rose 0.2% in July and is 2.9% higher than last year.
Core inflation, excluding food and energy, also rose 0.2% last month, and is 2.4% higher than last year.
That’s the highest growth for core inflation since September 2008.
The Federal Reserve might count this as progress, but to the average American family it spells pain.
Rising costs are eating up the meager wage gains over the past few years, and higher prices for medical services are part of the problem.
Health insurance costs are moving up, with premiums jumping 30% in Maryland and 24% in New York.
Some areas, like Vermont at a mere 7.5%, expect smaller increases, but with earnings creeping up at less than 3% per year, even “small” increases can be a burden on the family budget.
As a rank-and-file member of the self-employed, this topic is near and dear to my heart. I’ve done countless hours of research to find the best approach to health care.
As you might imagine, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.
My family gets coverage through a medical cost sharing program, Christian Heath Ministries.
For a mere $150 per month apiece, plus approximately $30 per quarter, we’ve got excellent, unlimited coverage.
It comes with caveats. No drunk driving, no drug abuse. We pledge to live responsibly and in return get great prices. I can live with that. No pun intended.
But there’s still the matter of the cost of care.
As a recent member of the 50-year-old-plus club, it was time for me to have the dreaded “procedure” to check my system.
I put it off for a couple of years, but then decided to be done with it.
When I began searching for a provider, I found the same old problem.
How did I know my list of potential providers was complete?
How could I avoid those pesky, after-the-procedure costs that simply show up in the mailbox unannounced?
I was determined to find an answer, but it was a repeat of similar adventures for MRIs, etc.
Then I found New Choice Health. I’d never heard of them.
The group develops a repository of cost information for many procedures by zip code. If you need something done, you plug it in and they give you the range of costs in your area and an estimated “savings” if you go to their preferred provider.
You get the actual procedure quote when you fill in their form.
But you aren’t committed to anything. It’s like Priceline (OK, Bookings.com, Nasdaq: BKNG) for medical procedures, only better.
The price they give you is all in. There are no extra fees, no attending doctors you didn’t know about, no facility fees, no labs, nothing. One price.
A friend of mine recently had a colonoscopy, so I had a frame of reference. The friend shopped around and had the procedure for $1,780. Mine cost $1,450.
It’s a great deal. But there’s a catch.
The company can offer this service by giving the providers peace of mind. This happens through pre-pay.
To go down this road, I had to pay up front and then request a reimbursement from my health cost sharing provider. I thought this was brilliant!
By requiring prepayment, the doctors can completely eliminate collections. They don’t need to assign any staff to my account for payables, insurance filing, or anything.
I show up, have my procedure, and we’re done.
This approach can’t work for everyone with every type of medical need, but it certainly works for things like MRIs, CT scans, knee repairs and shoulder injuries.
And it works because we cut out all the middlemen.
We know the procedure we need, we identify the costs in our area, find the provider willing to exchange a lower cost for guaranteed payment, and then we’re on our way.
That’s a deflationary trend I can support.
Yes, things cost more, but we should do our best to use technology and our access to information to cut out as much unnecessary bloat as possible.
Perhaps we’ll be able to drive costs down far enough to where our wage gains make a difference.
Here’s wishing you good health!