Helping make the health care system work for you

Bargain hunt for health care procedures, but use caution

laptop and stethoscope

jfcherry via Flickr Creative Commons

stethoscope lying on keyboard of a laptop

Shopping for things like hotel reservations is pretty easy these days.

There are a lot of websites that allow you to compare options by price and other factors. Some sites – like Priceline - even let you do the online version of haggling: You name the price you're willing to pay and the site matches you with a hotel willing to accept your bid.

Some entrepreneurs are now trying to adapt this approach to the health care field, where it's been notoriously difficult to shop around. It's a development that's being welcomed – with some caution – by people who advocate for transparency in the health care marketplace.

"This approach is the type of thing that the health care market needs," says Dr. Peter Ubel, a professor at Duke University. "With more and more people in the U.S. paying more and more out of pocket for their health care, they need to be more like regular consumers, where they're looking around for price and quality."

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Health Highlights: Finding doctors, buying insurance

Justin Henry via Flickr Creative Commons

Looking for a new doctor now – or during Covered California’s open enrollment period this fall? Either way, there are a lot of factors to consider. Luckily, there are apps to help you find a doctor you like.

That right there was my mishmash of KPCC's top consumer health stories of the week. Read on to get the full scoop on these stories and more!

Looking for a doctor? Word-of-mouth, data both helpful

As I wrote this week, finding a high-quality primary care doctor that you like and is covered by your insurance is a challenge.

Getting a recommendation from a friend or colleague is a tried-and-true approach. And now, you can get a sort of second opinion on those recommendations, through companies like ZocDoc and BetterDoctor. They provide patients with more information about doctors, such as biographical information, patient reviews and performance data.

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Looking for a doctor? Word-of-mouth, data both helpful

Sybren Stüvel via Flickr Creative Commons

My friend Sarah Rothbard recently started a new job. That meant switching insurance plans and finding a primary care doctor in her network that she liked.

And that proved to be a challenging task, even though she took a textbook approach to finding a doctor:

  • She tried asking friends for recommendations.
  • When that didn't work, she went to the website of her insurance company, Aetna, and searched for in-network doctors near her home or work.
  • She checked out where the doctors went to medical school and when they graduated, and cross-referenced this information with online reviews.

"I'm a pretty meticulous planner, so when I plan a vacation, I'll Google it, then I'll ask friends and I'll also go to TripAdvisor," Rothbard, 31, says. "I thought I would do this kind of thing for finding a doctor and it didn't really work out that way."

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Health Highlights: Birth center costs, teen sex, a West Nile death

Hands holding one week old baby boy.

Leanne Temme/Getty Images

Hands holding one week old baby boy.

This week's health stories are a reminder to stay vigilant - about the threat of West Nile virus and the need to buy health insurance. They're also a reminder that more information is better - when you're considering birthing facilities and when talking to teenagers about sex.

Tell me what you think of 'em, and let me know what you're reading this week!

Readers respond: Birth centers should be 'more available option'

This week on this blog and on Take Two, I delved into the cost of having a child at a birthing center.

I explained that it could definitely be cost-effective, at a societal level, for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth outside of the hospital. But I pointed out that it's harder to determine whether individual mamas will save money using a birthing center.

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Readers respond: Birth centers should be 'more available option'

baby babies newborn infant FILE Changes Announced In Maternity Services

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Wednesday on this blog and on Take Two, I delved into the cost of having a child at a birthing center. I explained that it can definitely be cost-effective, at a societal level, for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth outside of the hospital. But I pointed out that it's harder to determine whether individual mamas will save money using a birthing center.

That led me to ask our blog readers and Take Two audience a couple of questions: Did you have a child at a birthing center? If so, was it cost-effective for you?

Several people responded and provided thoughtful answers on KPCC's Facebook page. Their answers are below. If you've used a birthing center, or have considered this option, please join this conversation!

She'd use a birthing center if insurance covered it

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