A New Way to Drive Down Your Patients' Healthcare Costs

Whether you support the Affordable Care Act or not, everyone agrees that medical care in the United States is prohibitively expensive. And according to data released by the Congressional Budget Office, we can expect an 8% increase in healthcare spending between now and 2022. Driving this cost inflation is an aging population and the rising cost of medical tests. This has created a dilemma for the tens of millions of Americans who cannot afford necessary medical tests because they either don’t have health insurance or have insurance with a restrictively high deductible.

Having spent considerable time with patients who face this dilemma, Dr. Scott Hastings founded BidOnHealth.com, a new concept for accessing medical tests with a familiar spin. Anyone who has used an online travel website like Priceline.com is aware of it. Priceline offers a few ways to purchase discounted travel essentials, but is best known for their bidding option—you choose the dates you are going to be staying at a hotel in a particular city and offer the online travel agency a bid as to how much you are willing to pay. If Priceline accepts, your credit card is charged and you have your hotel. BidOnHealth.com is trying a similar approach to purchasing medical tests and healthcare services.

Last week, MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com (MMMI) interviewed BidOnHealth.com’s director of marketing, Denise Thompson, about the company’s mission, business plan and view on the future of healthcare in the United States.

MMMI: When did BidOnHealth.com officially begin doing business?

Denise Thompson: We started building this company roughly two years ago, and we have been marketing the service for about one year.

MMMI: How does the BidOnHealth.com system work?

DT: Our core demographic is the uninsured and underinsured. We have national contracts with LabCorp for medical tests; for radiology work, we have local contracts with companies like SimonMed. We have negotiated prices with those vendors (labs).

We offer options to people looking to save money on medical services. They can choose the “Buy Now” price, which is 60 percent off of the retail price. They can also place a bid for what they are willing to pay for a medical service, and often those who do can save up to 90 percent.

MMMI: How has the bidding model been received? We know the Priceline model is doing well, but healthcare is a very different product.

DT: There are certain demographics that don’t respond well to the bidding option. This is why we also offer the “Buy Now” option.

MMMI: What type of marketing have you been doing to get your name out there?

DT: Initially, we’ve been marketing to doctors. The company was founded by Dr. Scott Hastings, who is a primary care physician practicing in Arizona, and his initial thoughts were, “Let’s first grab the attention of doctors because this will help their patients save money.” They know which of their patients have no insurance or little insurance, and this route will enable those doctors to help their patients get their needed tests.

There are a number of doctors who have grabbed onto this concept, but there’s also a portion who don’t yet understand this model. Those who have yet to get it feel like they are relinquishing control.

Lately, we have started to shift our marketing direct to the consumer.

MMMI: Have you found it difficult to separate people’s correlation of “low cost” and “cheap”?

DT: This has been one of the biggest barriers with the physicians. The doctors think, “Why are my patients getting this so cheap?” The companies we contract with, for example LabCorp, are the same companies patients would go to for these tests anyway. They are getting the same quality of care as any patient who contracts the company to do the test. It’s a matter of educating the doctors that there is nothing different with the tests or process. The only difference is the patient is paying up front and getting a discounted rate.

MMMI: As you mentioned, the target demographic is the uninsured and the underinsured. How has the recent Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare altered your model or approach?

DT: We are not worried about that yet because nothing has really taken place yet. A lot can change because a lot already has. We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out with this new law.

MMMI: Let’s say that a patient has insurance, but it carries a deductible. If I choose to purchase my tests through BidOnHealth.com, will the discounted price still count toward the deductible?

DT: Anything purchased on BidOnHealth.com is eligible for Health Savings Accounts, and the purchase can be put towards a health insurance deductible. We don’t submit the paperwork to the patient’s health insurance company, but the patient can submit it to their insurer. It counts toward the deductible because they are paying healthcare expenses out of their own pocket.

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