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Cheaper Medical Costs? Yes, There Are Apps for That

Feb. 12, 2015
Health, Medical Costs
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By Bonnie Sheeren
Learn more about Bonnie on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor.

As an independent patient advocate, I’m asked all sorts of medical questions at social gatherings. I always have my smartphone with me, loaded with programs I use daily. These days, I can answer just about any question with: “There’s an app for that!”

Health care pricing apps are a must when you go to the doctor these days. Consider one recent scenario.

One of my business colleagues went for a routine visit to his doctor. The doctor wrote a prescription at the end of the appointment, saying, “This is one of those $4 generic medications. You can get it from any pharmacy with a value-priced list.”

Except in this case, the price turned out to be $55, not $4. My colleague asked me why there was such a large discrepancy. I immediately pulled up my GoodRx app and showed him how to check the price of any medication at his local pharmacies. Clicking through a few more screens yields a list of comparable medications with cost comparisons.

I urged him to call his doctor, as it’s almost impossible for any health care provider to keep up with price changes and whether medications are discontinued on value-priced lists. The doctor was very apologetic, offering to change the prescription to a less expensive one. Having started the medication, however, my friend decided to continue taking his initial prescription.

One thing did change — my colleague immediately downloaded the GoodRx app and won’t leave a doctor’s office without checking it first and discussing any price considerations on the spot. I also showed him the Healthcare Bluebook app, which gives “fair price” estimates for most health services, from doctor’s fees to diagnostic and hospital costs.

Other useful health care cost comparison apps include LowestMed, which enables consumers to compare prescription drug pricing among local pharmacies, and Fair Health Cost Lookup, a free online tool that lets consumers estimate and plan their medical and dental expenditures.

Being a wise health care consumer is the wave of the future, and apps that provide price transparency are invaluable in an age of ever-increasing medical bills. Check out the options above and keep searching for new ones. With these tools in hand, you’ll be able to find the health care you need at the best price.