It stands to reason that if you know how much something is goingto cost you, you can make better decisions about whether andhow to pay for it.

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But when it comes to health care plans, not so much. That’saccording to a HealthMine survey of consumers with sponsored healthinsurance, 39 percent of whom say their plans don’t offer them atool to help them predict how much their care will costthem.

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A report in 2014 by the Gary and Mary West HealthPolicy Center has found that giving consumers prices for healthcare could cut spending on U.S. care by more than $100 billionduring the next 10 years, but that doesn’t mean plans are providingtheir members with ways to predict how much they’ll end up payingfor health care services, visits to providers or gettingprescriptions filled.

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With only 38 percent saying that their plans give them a tool topredict the cost of a doctor visit, 37 percent saying there’s atool to predict how much they’ll pay for prescription drugs and 36percent saying their plan gives them the means to predict the costof a service, such as imaging, lab tests or some other procedure,that leaves a lot of room for improvement.

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It remains to be seen whether that improvement is on the way,despite the fact that outcomes for patients would be better if theycould know in advance how much medications and treatment will costthem. Not only are patients worried about the bills, if they do tryto find a cheaper provider, they worry — often justifiably so —that the quality of the care they receive might not be on a parwith a more expensive one.

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In fact, a recent Modern Healthcare article finds that the combination of potentialproblems surrounding cost and quality worries can lead patients tosimply skip treatments or medications — and that makes everythingmore expensive, and probably even more dangerous, down theroad.

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That’s not to say they don’t try to shop around, but it’s noteasy to get the answers without help. Another ModernHealthcarereporthighlights the fact that simply calling doctors’ offices and/orhospitals won’t necessarily result in getting the informationpatients need to make informed decisions, much less save money.

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Of course, some hospitals are trying to get out in front of theproblem of patients possibly not being able to pay for care bytrying to get them to pay for it before they even get it — but atleast they’re giving patients estimates of the cost ahead oftime.

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