Comparison Shopping for Healthcare

You shop around for the best deals on homes, cars, and vacations, so why not seek out the best prices for healthcare too?

After all, the cost of medical procedures varies widely, even within the same city.

For example, the cost for a hip or knee replacement in a top Chicago hospital is $68,586. Drive less than 10 miles away and save nearly $10,000, where the same procedure at another top hospital goes for $58,810.

And in New York City, the average charge at one hospital for angioplasty of a blocked coronary artery with no stent placed and without major complications is $117,480. At a nearby hospital the charge for the procedure: $45,346. And that facility performs more of the procedures–more than five times more–than the costlier hospital.

Those bits of information come from NerdWallet Health, which hunted down the best prices and best quality healthcare in its evaluation of 2,750 U.S. hospitals.

Its free online Hospital Price Comparison Tool, www.nerdwallet.com/health/hospitals, gives you access to the data, letting you compare costs of medical procedures at hospitals in cites around the United States.

Experience counts

In an emergency, of course, you’re not in a position to shop around. But when you’re considering planned surgeries, take time to evaluate not only the surgeon and procedure, but also where to get the best care for the lowest cost.

Also keep in mind that saying about getting what you pay for. Maybe you don’t want to shop based on price alone. For major surgery, you also may want to explore the number of procedures a hospital does each year.

After all, hospitals that have deep experience with a given procedure may give you a sense of peace and confidence, which may be more valuable than to you than saving a few dollars.

The Nerdwallet tool makes all such research a cinch. For each procedure at each hospital included at the site, you can find the number of patients a hospital treats per year, the average hospital charge, the average Medicare payment, and the Medicare discount.

The site covers more than surgical procedures and includes everything from treatment of dizziness, bleeding ulcers and emphysema, to kidney infections, anemia, and schizophrenia.

Learn more about Nerdwallet Health’s study at www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/2013/07/17/nerdwallet-health-study-demand-knee-hip-replacements-grow-americans-pay-poorer-quality-outcomes.

Housing habits by generation

A recent study by the National Association of REALTORS® has implications for you, especially if you’re thinking about selling your house, condo or townhouse.

NAR looked at generational differences among home buyers and home sellers in its July 2013 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends.

At first glance, the data seem geared to real estate professionals. But you, too, can glean some insight, which could be especially valuable as you prepare to put your house on the market.

For example, if you’ve been in your house for decades, odds are that that your buyer will be younger than you are. And such buyers have certain habits and expectations that you can learn about in the study.

The knowledge can also help you to better partner with your real estate practitioner and work with him or her to be certain that your home’s most desirable features are marketed in a way that reaches the widest pool of buyers.

Here are five key points you can take from the NAR study.

1. Timeline

. How long it takes to sell a house depends on a host of issues specific to your market. But as you start planning your own move, the study gives you a feel for how much time it could require to sell your property.

One chart, “Number of Weeks Recently Sold Home Was on the Market,” shows that on the low end of the timeframe, houses spent less than one week on the market for 4% of all sellers. At the longer end, 9% of sellers reported that their house was on the market for 53 weeks or more.

Use the figures as a guide and prepare your moving timeline accordingly.

2. Online marketing strategy. When you’re interviewing practitioners, ask them how and where they’ll be marketing your property, keeping in mind just how buyers conduct home searches these days.

For instance, 90% of all buyers looked to the Internet for information during their home search. And among those aged 32 and younger and those aged 33 to 47, that figure was 96%.

3. Green features

. Increasingly, buyers are paying attention to green features and home operating costs.

As you prepare your house for sale and make upgrades, keep in mind that 39% of all buyers said heating and cooling costs were very important to them and that 24 percent looked at energy efficient appliances and lighting.

So upgrades that reduce buyers’ monthly bills could help your house to stand out. If you’ve already made environmentally friendly changes, be certain that your marketing materials reflect those features and show the cost savings that the strategies yield.

4. Beyond the yard

. Talk with your real estate practitioner about the conveniences beyond the confines of the house.

Among the features buyers value include access to parks and recreation, convenience to healthcare facilities, green and environmentally-friendly community features, and access to public transportation and the airport.

Since 43% those aged 32 and younger cited commuting costs as very important to them, any nearby train stations, subway stops, and bus routes would be terrific benefits to promote.

5. Incentives

. If you’re willing to offer incentives to push buyers off the fence, consider some of the more popular enticements, including home warranty policies, assistance with closing costs and credit toward remodeling or repairs.

And though the survey was based on the U.S. real estate market, much of the insight likely applies to Canadian buyers too, particularly when you’re chasing after younger buyers.

After all, buyers in the Gen Y generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) and the Gen X generation (those born between 1965 and 1979) in both the U.S. and Canada likely share some similar characteristics, such as a desire to save on energy bills and easy access to transportation and entertainment. In addition, you can count on all of them to look to the Internet for information during their property searches. Talk to your real estate practitioner about just how the insight applies to the marketing of your Canadian home.

See the NAR study at www.realtor.org/sites/default/files/2013-nar-home-buyer-seller-generational-trends-2013-07-08.pdf.

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