Ashley Martinez needed an MRI.
She found out instead of paying money, she’d get a check back.
“I thought it was too good to be true,” Martinez said. “There always has to be some kind of little trick, but there wasn’t.”
Weeks after her MRI, the program called SmartShopper, by a company called Vitals, sent her a check for $150.
It’s a program set up through employer-sponsored insurance programs that encourages consumers to shop around for the best prices on procedures including blood tests, colonoscopies and mammograms.
In South Florida, the price of an MRI ranges from $150-$3,000 depending on where it’s performed.
Martinez found the cheapest price at her own employer, Jackson Health.
Because the price there was lower, her insurance company saved money and passed along that savings to her.
“They are saving probably five to six times what the patients get,” said Mitch Rothschild, the founder of Vitals.
He believes the program helps lift the veil of secrecy from health care pricing.
“It’s probably the only transaction in America where neither the buyer nor the seller knows the price,” Rothschild said. “There are very good health care providers that do not cost a lot of money that patients don’t know about.”
The company says it’s saved money for health plans that are enrolled.
As part of the program consumers can compare categories other than cost including quality rankings and patient review.
Incentive payments range from as little as $25 to $500 per month.
SmartShopper is in several states and new to South Florida.
To participate, you have to be covered by AvMed or it has to be part of your employer-sponsored insurance.