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Shop around for best deals on medical procedures

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Matt Hutchings (Source: KTVK) Matt Hutchings (Source: KTVK)
(Surce: KTVK) (Surce: KTVK)
Caitlin Donovan (Source: KTVK) Caitlin Donovan (Source: KTVK)

Many people are willing to shop around to get a deal on a car, computer or clothes. 

You can also shop online for deals on major medical procedures to determine the best prices.

Matt Hutchings had a cough that just wouldn't quit. After going to the doctor, he learned he had a more serious condition than he expected. 

"They found out I had Barrett's Esophagus,” Hutchings said. “That's where the acids in your stomach come up."  

The condition can sometimes lead to cancer of the esophagus, so the specialists recommended surgery. 

Hutchings said he looked into the cost of the surgery with the doctor who diagnosed him. Even with his insurance, it was going to cost him up to $60,000 out of pocket. 

With help from his insurance company, he was able to price match the procedure. 

"Then we come to find out there was a lot of other doctors and hospitals that would do it for a much lesser price," Hutchings said. 

He used a company called medibid. It is one of a growing number of healthcare bidding websites, where doctors can place bids for various procedures.  

"The goal is to make healthcare more accessible, affordable,” said founder Ralph Weber. “(It) allows the employee to really see the quality and make an informed decision." 

Weber started medibid in 2010 because he felt there was a lack of transparency in health care. For a fee, the site lets patients search through prices providers submit for various procedures. 

Weber said those prices are often lower than the out of pocket cost from insurance. 

"We saw a need for having competition so that people can compete based on quality, based on price, and based on location," Weber said. 

Other sites like "clear health costs" and "pokidot" also help consumers find prices for medical procedures. But could these types of sites compromise quality of care? 

Caitlin Donovan of the National Patient Advocate Foundation likes that these websites promote transparency, but she's concerned patients may choose a doctor based solely on cost. 

"Patients may not do their due diligence,” Donovan said. “ We're also worried that even if they research their doctor, they may still go for the lowest bid, and less expensive is not a guarantee of high quality.  On the same token, more expensive isn't always, either." 

Hutchings ended up going to a specialist out of state and paid significantly less than the original quote from his local doctor. 

The surgery was a success, and he doesn't suffer from heartburn anymore. It took some extra research and travel but Hutchings says he'd do it all over again. 

"They were excellent, and I came out owing nothing, which was awesome," he added. 

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