Paying out of pocket could be more cost effective than using health insurance

By Brittny McGraw - Anchor

ROANOKE, Va. - Most of us wouldn't dream of going to the doctor's office and not pulling out a health insurance card, but there are cases when pulling out cash might be a better option.

With the increasing number of people in high-deductible health insurance plans, Consumer Reports says some medical providers are offering discounts -- sometimes deep discounts -- to people who pay out of pocket. 

"It sounds counterintuitive, but it's true in some cases," said Donna Rosato, Consumer Reports money editor.  

A company like MD Save even pulls together hundreds of doctors, hospitals and labs across the U.S., offering discounts to people willing to prepay their bill.

It's a practice more common for diagnostic procedures, like X-rays, CT scans and even ultrasounds.

But the financial team at Consumer Reports found many medical services, including pharmacies and even some outpatient surgeries, are offering discounts if you leave your insurer out of the picture.

"You have to be careful, it could cost you more in the long run. That's because when you pay out of your own pocket, that money will not be applied to your deductible or your out-of-pocket maximum," said Rosato. "If you need a lot of health care later on, you could be starting from zero." 

Consumer Reports says it's important to run the numbers and then decide what's best for your family. But no matter which way the numbers fall, don't skip having health insurance. 

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