Be Picky: Comparison Shopping for Your Medical Care

July 13, 2016

You hunt for the best gas prices. You clip grocery store coupons and comparison shop your way through summer jeans sales. So why don’t you shop around for the best healthcare provider prices? Better question: did you even know you could?

Say you’re at the orthopedist in Charlotte for a bum knee. She recommends an MRI, and the front desk says that they can set you up an appointment with the radiologist.

If you’re like almost everyone, you just say, “Okay!” They schedule the appointment, and you go to the provider they recommend, end of story. It’s just easier, right?

Not on your wallet. Healthcare services like MRIs are radically different prices at different offices and in different regions. According to, an average MRI without contrast in Charlotte is $1,082. But if you’re willing to drive an hour and a half to Greensboro for the procedure, chances are it will be hundreds of dollars cheaper; Greensboro’s average price is only $637!

The statewide differences are incredible. If you want proof, go check out again — MRIs without contrast vary across the state by 51%, appendectomies by 53%, C-sections by 62%...we could go on, but fear not, we have a suggestion to improve your fiscal health. So wherever you are, the likelihood is high that by taking the time to shop for a procedure as if it’s a set of tires, you can save money.

How do you do it? Like this:

  • Understand what kind of service you need. Are you looking for a radiologist? A dermatologist? Find out the specific type of caregiver they recommend, not just the name of the provider.
  • Go home and check to see if you’re your insurance provider has a price comparison tool or perhaps Google that term plus the name of your area. You’ll get a list of hits based on your location.
  • Start making phone calls. Make sure to have your insurance card handy; the price of the procedure may depend on the type of insurance you have, and you’ll also want to make sure a provider you choose is in-network.
  • Once you’ve found the deal you want at a provider who’s close enough to you to be convenient and who takes your health insurance, call your doctor’s office back. If necessary, get them to send the medical records to your new provider. That’s it!


Take back some power over your healthcare costs. And if you enjoy that taking-back-power thing, here’s something else you can do: sign up to be a part of the North Carolina Coalition for Fiscal Health. We’re working hard on the issue, and we’ll keep letting you know how to make your voice heard.

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