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Americans scroll Amazon and Walmart for bargains — yet choose pricey healthcare services and throw away hundreds of dollars


(Photo by Siegfried Modola/Getty Images) A new study looked the missed cost savings on MRIs. People will spend hours scouring Amazon AMZN AMZN , Walmart WMT WMT and Target TGT TGT for bargains, and aggressively negotiate with car dealers and real-estate agents — yet they literally drive past potential savings when choosing health-care services.

Patients who needed MRIs and had access to a price-shopping tool still wound up overlooking cheaper providers and paying more, according to a new report in the Journal of Health Economics.

The findings underscore the limits of price transparency and the influence of referring physicians.

In a review of 2013 claims from a national health-insurance carrier, Yale University professor Zack Cooper determined that consumers traveled an average 26 minutes for the lower-limb MRI, passing an average of six places offering cheaper prices.

The policyholders had access to a price-shopping tool, but fewer than 1% of people actually used it, according to Cooper’s research.

The patient and insurer paid a combined $851, with the patient footing $307 and the insurance company paying $544, the research showed. If the patient used the lowest-cost MRI provider within that same travel span, they could have paid $222 and their carrier could have paid […]

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