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This One Simple Question Could Save You Money on Your Health Bill

By Alyssa Coughenour | July 7, 2015 | Healthy Lifestyle, Insurance Education

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When I go to the doctor, I’m usually thinking: “Just tell me what’s wrong with me and how we can make it better.” I’m not concerned which lab she’ll use for my blood work. Until recently, it never occurred to me to ask about that.

But now that I’m working in health care, I’m going to tell you something that I wish someone had told me earlier: As patients, we need to ask questions – not just about the diagnosis, but about the process.

And there’s one question in particular that can save you a lot of money.

Ask your doctor to use in-network labs

Next time you go to the doctor, ask: “Is my test being sent to an in-network lab?” 

An in-network lab is a lab that has an agreement with your insurance company to process samples at a certain discounted cost. On the other hand, an out-of-network lab is not bound by any price agreement,  and lab tests could cost significantly more.

Start With These Steps to Save:

  • If your doctor is collecting your lab sample in the office: Ask the doctor to use an in-network lab. Doctors contracting with BCBSNC are required to comply with this request.
  • If your doctor is sending you to a lab for the testing: Ask your doctor to direct you to an in-network lab.
  • Or, you can contact BCBSNC at the toll-free number listed on your member ID card. We can help you locate an in-network lab in your area, or we can contact your doctor to ensure he or she is following the in-network referral guidelines in their agreement.

Save Money When You Use In-Network Labs

This is an important – and simple – way for you to avoid paying fees that are not covered for out-of-network labs.

Beginning July 15, if your doctor sends your test to an out-of-network lab, BCBSNC will pay the customer – not the lab – the amount we would pay to an in-network lab. The customer is then responsible for paying the lab, which may include any amount above what BCBSNC pays to in-network labs.

In other words, if BCBSNC pays an in-network lab $50 for a certain test, and your doctor sends your blood work to an out-of-network lab that charges $125 for that test, then you have to pay the $75 difference.

And those amounts don’t actually reflect the true costs involved. The average cost per claim is about 20 times more when doctors use out-of-network labs.

You read that right – 20 times more.

Oh, healthcare. Why do you have to be so complicated? Yep, that thought goes through my head, too.

But BCBSNC’s new lab policy is actually intended to make things less complicated for our customers – and less expensive.

How to Find an In-Network Lab

Your doctor may not know which lab can save you the most money on your lab work. In order to find out for yourself:

  • Visit and look for in-network labs in the “diagnostics and other medical services” of our Find a Doctor search tool.
  • Contact BCBSNC at the toll-free number listed on your member ID card. We can help you find an in-network lab in your area.

As we work to make the health care system easier to navigate, there is one simple thing you can do to spend less on your own health care: Ask your doctor to use an in-network lab for your lab work.

To learn more about the true costs of health care procedures, check out BCBSNC’s cost transparency tool, which allows users to compare what doctors across the state are charging for more than 1200 elective procedures.

Find More Ways to Save

Our blog includes a series of posts to help you manage your health care spending. Here are a few you should read: