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Healthy UNH Website Offers Guidance on Cutting Medical Care Costs

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Paying more for health care is inevitable. The cost goes up every year. In 2012, UNH employees will see an increase with the addition of deductibles and co-pays for some procedures that previously had none—all of which makes trying to keep expenses down more important than ever.

Cost variation is a big piece of the equation; while one might think the same procedure would cost the same no matter where it is done, that’s just not true. Prices vary by provider and/or location. Even blood work is more expensive at some labs than others.

So, why make these choices if Harvard Pilgrim is paying the bill? Because choosing a hospital or clinic that charges less money means it will cost Harvard Pilgrim less. And that could mean lower costs to the university and you.

Healthy UNH’s new website ( http://unh.edu/healthyunh/use-independent-labs) on health care spending offers advice on how to choose where to go and when to get services.

Take blood work. A complete blood count (CBC) test done at an independent laboratory costs about $15 compared to $150 at a hospital laboratory. Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp are two independent labs with numerous sites around the state. Their websites let you search for the nearest location. You also can make an appointment online.

Use the USNH HealthCost website to find out prices for specific medical services. Need a colonoscopy? You’ll find prices range from $1,202 at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth to $1,853 at Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester to $2,311 at Portsmouth Regional Hospital to $4,343 at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough. (Prices subject to change).

Arthroscopic knee surgery done as an outpatient will cost $3,547 at Dartmouth Hitchcock compared to $9,738 at the Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont. Have it done in Exeter and it’ll run $7,659. At Southern N. H. Medical Center in Nashua, the cost is $5,820; at Portsmouth Regional, it’s $6,247.

Another link on the Healthy UNH website shows how New Hampshire hospitals compare to each other overall in terms of cost and quality. Check out the NH Hospital Score Card.

The Healthy UNH page also explains how using the emergency room only when necessary can save money; the cost benefits of generic drugs; and how to avoid duplicate x-rays—hence, avoiding duplicate expenses.

“The budget crisis at UNH means we have to look closely at all of our expenses, including our costs for medical benefits. Asking employees to take the initiative to shop for medical services that are more cost effective—like seeking laboratory services outside of the outpatient hospital setting helps UNH keep our overall costs down,” says Amy Schwartz of the New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy and Practice.

Employees are partners in the process of controlling health care costs and every dollar we save is important to the financial health of the university. We hope these types of interventions will start to bring costs under control and allow us to continue to offer the outstanding benefit package that has historically been available to UNH employees.”