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The Parable of the High-Deductible Health Plan and the Careful Shopper

I carry - and pay for - my own health insurance now that I'm self-employed and don't have some rich health system footing the bill.  Though generally healthy, I do take meds for cholesterol and seasonal allergies, wear contact lenses and faithfully keep up with the routine screenings recommended for an old fart. 

My plan is a Blue Cross high-deductible plan where I carry the first $2,500 of financial responsibility.  Man, overnight that turned me into a different kind of patient and health care shopper.

No more Zocor for $90 a month.  Now it's WalMart's generic statin for $5.  (I've always hated WalMart and don't know which is worse; the price of setting aside that hate or the fact that the price is so low.)

No more going where my doctor tells me for lab tests and EKGs.  His in-house phlebotomist is convenient but pricey.  The hospital up the street is service-constipated, their billing is aggressive and nasty and their prices are worse - when they know what the prices ARE.

Suddenly I've got other labs and testing facilities falling all over me to extend discounts.  Two percent for cash?  Not good enough?  How about a 50% discount on all fees - facility and professional - and 60 days to pay?  Sold!

Maybe an expanded business opportunity for the "buyers agents" out there- expert negotiators who assist people like me in finding the best self-pay deals.  And a new opportunity for growth-focused health care strategists.   There's lots of would-be customers looking for a price.  Customers just like me.  Well, better looking perhaps, but you know what I mean.

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