We collect prices by several means, using a several-step process designed and then refined to find accredited providers across a range of facilities: hospital, self-standing radiology center, individual physician, clinics, chains and the like, in various locales (city locations, different neighborhoods, suburban towns, etc.)
Some prices we collect by interviews, and some from price lists posted publicly. We are also collecting individuals’ prices; when we have prices that we ourselves have not verified, they will be indicated with clear visual and written cues.
We identify ourselves as being from a new independent consumer health-care research organization, and asking for a cash or self-pay price for these procedures. We invite detail about discounts, mandatory consultation or referral visits, and other things we might want to know. We seek to use a HCPCS (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System) number when valid. We also use other standardized data-collection methods.
Most places we contact have a cash or self-pay price easily available that they are able to quote. Those prices we have listed here. Sometimes respondents say they had some provision for need, a sliding scale for example, and that is also noted where available.
When we find people who misunderstand and think that we are patients, not journalist-researchers, we seek to dispel that misunderstanding to insure that our methods were uniform.
Jeanne Pinder, the founder of clearhealthcosts.com, called a number of providers in the New York City area in the fall of 2010 while she was researching this business concept, and misrepresented herself by telling them that she was a patient, that she had not met her deductible, and that she needed a test (in this case, a colonoscopy) and asked what it would cost if she was paying out of her own pocket (see blog post). This is not our policy now.
It’s worth noting, though, that when she asked this question in this fashion, she found extraordinary support and good will: When respondents thought she was paying out of pocket, they uniformly and completely were sympathetic and helpful — up to and including the very nice Manhattan receptionist who added up the numbers and said that this procedure at her doctor’s rates would be well over $3,000, and that thus she should not go to him, but should rather shop around on the Internet for a better price.
Questions, suggestions? We’re reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.