5 keys to successful health care shopping

Patients are being pushed to shop more for health care by insurance plans that require them to pay higher out-of-pocket costs. But finding the right deal is often no easy task. Here are five things to consider if you decide to shop around:

1 — Check with your insurer: Don't make a big bill even larger by shopping for care outside your health insurer's network of doctors. See if you can get better deals inside that network.

2 — Ask for help: Your insurer may offer an application or online tool that lets you compare prices you would pay based on your coverage.

3 — Press for details: A surgery could come with separate invoices from the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the surgery center. Make sure you have the full picture of potential bills you may face.

4 — Don't equate price with quality: A hospital may charge several different prices for a procedure depending on the patient's insurance coverage or lack thereof. A higher price doesn't always mean better care.

5 — Think hard about quality: Don't weigh just price. Consider things like how much experience a provider has with the surgery or the infection or readmission rates for the hospital.