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Nearly all providers charge individual patients vastly more than they receive for identical services that are paid through insurers with whom they have a contract. Everyone, I think, is well aware of this so I need not belabor the point with examples. My own EoBs (explanation of benefits) usually show at least a 50% discount and sometimes the discount exceeds 90%. So, individuals who set up HSAs and carry major medical must pay much more for their services (until the major medical kicks in) than the majority (insured) population.

I have not found this to the be case in my own experience with HSAs. When purchasing services while still within the annual deductible, I have received pricing negotiated by the health insurer rather than the "rack rate" for the service. It is actually in the insurance company's best interest to make sure that this happens because otherwise patients would blow through their annual deductible quickly and qualify for benefits under the policy. The insurance company doesn't really care about saving me money within the deductible but they would care if I breach the deductible and/or annual out of pocket maximum after which point all further expenses would be covered.

Price transparency is indeed lacking. On one occasion, despite several attempts, I could not determine the negotiated price for a test. The doctor's office (after much prodding) quoted the "rack rate" to me -- that is, the rate that a totally uninsured patient would pay coming in off the street. It turned out that the negotiated rate was about 25% of that amount.
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