Hello everyone! Welcome back to The Green Swan. Let’s talk today about healthcare and how difficult it is to know you are getting a fair price. I’ve run into this issue every time my wife, son or I have required medical care. I’m sure you have faced similar issues. Especially in today’s world where consumer-directed healthcare plans (i.e. high deductible health insurance) are becoming more and more common, it is important to price shop for the best healthcare options.
Well I have some good news for you! Today I would like to introduce Amino which has recently launched a new service to help you price healthcare. While Amino is not a perfect solution or the end-all-be-all for pricing healthcare, it is a step in the right direction for an industry that has historically been pathetic in terms of price transparency. While Amino is just one of many other public and private companies trying to solve this problem for the healthcare industry, its tools and wide range of details brings the industry the closest it has ever been.
For background, I am introducing you to Amino solely to help you navigate the complex world of pricing healthcare. The services they offer online are free and I have no affiliation to Amino.
Amino is a “health data company” and has been around since 2013 crunching numbers and data to help provide insightful analysis for the consumer looking to buy healthcare services. Based on the in depth work in its first two years of existence, it launched its first service online in the Fall of 2015. This first service they offered was a quality based metrics on a doctor by doctor basis, helping the consumer/patient find the most suitable physician. In addition to this useful information, in the last month they have begun to show prices by doctor and by insurance plan.
- Amino allows you to search the procedure for pricing based specifically on your geographic location and insurance plan
- Amino bundles the entire cost of the procedure (e.i. for a pregnancy you may receive multiple bills from the hospital, the doctor, the anesthesiologist, etc.), helping to avoid surprise bills
- It can highlight regional pricing differences within a city and state
- Amino’s quality and pricing data covers about 550,000 physicians, 49 procedures, and 129 insurance companies
- It’s data is based on 188 million individuals’ historical data, hundreds of millions insurance claims totaling $860 billion within the last year
There are a few limitations currently, but I believe these are all things they are working to improve going forward.
- More procedural data is needed, while Amino has hit a lot of the big procedures there is still significant room for growth
- More quality information would be beneficial. For instance, it may show the rate of replacement surgery for a knee for an orthopedic doctor or rate of c-sections for an OB/GYN which is good info, but more granular and personalized quality info would necessary for a complete decision making process.
Healthcare is daunting. By introducing you to Amino, I hope you benefit by a bit more price transparency. I know it would have helped my family in the few medical issues we have encountered in recent years. And as Amino continues to grow and add more and more detail and services, it should only improve and become more useful.
Just over two years ago, my wife Lucy and I had our first child. What a magnificent experience, we were both so delighted and our families couldn’t have been happier for us either.
Of course, what we didn’t know was how much this was going to cost us or how much insurance would cover. I had tried calling different hospitals in advance to see how things were priced, but it was shocking how little they knew or were willing to share. I could write a whole post on this alone. And if you’ve been there before, you know what I’m talking about!
Ear Tube Surgery
Unfortunately, the little man suffered through a series of ear infections and we ultimately had to have ear tubes put in for him. This was very tough on both Lucy and I, having to have him put under anesthetics, taking him into a surgery center, putting the little man in gown, the whole nine yards. Fortunately the surgery went very well and it was over quickly.
Prior to the surgery, again I was calling multiple places to find the best and cheapest alternative. Having it completed in a hospital would have been over twice as expensive. Similar to the pregnancy, after the procedure we got multiple bills to pay the operating doctor, anesthesia doctor, the facility fee, and I can’t even remember what else.
Late in 2015, Lucy contracted pneumonia. No idea how, but she was definitely under the weather for a while. As it was progressing and she was feeling worse, we were driving home from work one day and she was telling me how bad it was. We look back and laugh now, but my response was something to the effect of “yeah, you must have a bad cold, but it’s not like you got pneumonia…”. I was speaking from experience since I had it once as well years ago.
But the next morning it was so bad that she went to the CVS MinuteClinic, and sure enough she was told she likely had pneumonia. Boy did I “eat crow” after that diagnosis. She had to go to a doctor for an x-ray and to get prescriptions, etc. While more of an emergency, it would have still been nice to do a bit of price shopping to find the best venue and doctor (e.g. family practitioner, ER, Urgent Care, etc).
Amino would have likely been helpful in this circumstance. She ended up going to Urgent Care which we think was the best option in terms of getting in right away, cost, etc.
Each of these situations were unique, but all would have benefitted by greater price transparency as well as a simpler and easier to understand healthcare system. For each situation we had to try to determine where to go for the best treatment at the best cost, but it was not easy and it was more or less a crap-shoot.
These situations are normal too, they happen to everyone, there is nothing unique about them, and they all happened in just the last couple years. This is a very routine problem! Amino is here to help and will hopefully continue to get better.
I’m sure you’ve all had similar situations. We are all in this together trying to find the best care for ourselves and our loved ones. If you’d like, please share your experiences with healthcare and the lack of price transparency in the comments below. Could Amino be a useful resource for you? Will you be bookmarking it in your browser?
Thanks for taking a look!
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