Bidding for your life: Would you haggle for healthcare online?

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Imagine your healthcare being treated like a live auction. Sold–on the next surgery that could save your life.

That concept is a reality on an online marketplace called MediBid. The site allows doctors to compete for your dollars.

“You’re allowed access to people who are looking for medical services and certainly with my sub-specialty focus it’s easy because I’m just looking for a certain number of patients that have shoulder related complaints, said Dr. Vivek Agrawal.

Agrawal specializes in shoulder surgeries at “The Shoulder Center” in Carmel.

He’s new to MediBid and is currently offering patients a discounted price on consultations. He says the world of insurance claims has become so complex so he joined the site to cut out the middle man.

“The problem is there are so many layers of bureaucracy within and you have 10 middlemen by the time it gets to the end the charge for that particular procedure is much higher,” said Agrawal.

Medibid works with cash payments only from patient to doctor. That allows them to discount their services that could be more expensive through insurance companies.

Think of it like eBay in reverse. Patients pay a fee to request bids from the United States or around the world. Then doctors put up cash to list their profile and then fight it out to get your business.

Annelise, 10,  was born with one kidney. She needs a renal ultrasound, blood work and urinalysis every other year. By using MediBid the family estimates they’ll save about $700.

“We were able to use a local imaging center, a testing center that did a tremendous job. They actually took a lot more pictures than we are used to,” said Samuel Kniseley.

There’s an understandable fear from people when it comes to getting healthcare on a budget. MediBid CEO Ralph Weber says there’s always room for uncertainty even if you know the doctor personally. He says hospital fees are the real cost difference among doctors, not their qualifications.

“In healthcare very often the exact opposite is true. Doctors get paid the same amount by the procedure. Dr. Smith will usually get paid the same as Dr. Jones. However, the bigger price in the cost of healthcare is often the facility fee and then there’s anesthesiology as well,” said Weber.

Patients can also see the doctors’ education, training and credentials. Licensing information is available after the bid is accepted. Even Agrawal admits physicians can have a wall of degrees and accolades without the skills to back it up. He warns patients to do their own homework.

“My hope is that as patients have more power they also take the responsibility to do the research on the other side. So I think the danger is if you just treat it as an online marketplace and go for the lowest common price,” said Agrawal.

Even though MediBid is a cash exchange, patients with insurance can still utilize the site. For example, if they have a high insurance deductible or need a procedure that’s not covered under medicare.

MediBid has doctors from all over the world on the site.  Seventy percent of patients are willing to travel throughout the U.S. to visit doctors offering the service they need. Ten percent are willing to travel worldwide.

Heather Mitchell, with the Marketplace for Medicine, provided FOX59 with some numbers for the average costs and lowest costs of certain procedures:

All inclusive prices: Average Lowest
Colonoscopy $800 $400
MRI $512 $325
Hip Replacement $14,250 $7,500
Dental Implant $1,625 $850
Hernia Repair $4,875 $3,000
Knee Arthroscopy $5,110 $3,740
Rotator Cuff Repair $10,000 $5,000

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