Cardiologists: what consumers need to know before a visit

December 5, 2018

A cardiologist is a specialist for the heart and blood vessels.  The most common reason people are referred to a cardiologist is because of (1) chest pain, (2) shortness-of-breath or (3) palpitations (a sensation of ‘fluttering’ of the heart).

Here is what you could expect during your cardiologist office visit:

  1. You will have an EKG (electrocardiogram) done during your visit.  An EKG is where the cardiologist attaches electrodes to your chest to see how your heart is beating (the squiggly lines you see on doctor shows on TV).  That EKG may or may not be included in your office visit copay—different cardiologists bill for EKGs differently and different insurance policies cover it in different ways.  An EKG is a relatively inexpensive test: $15 – $30.
  2. You will likely also have additional tests—(A) a stress test, (B) an echocardiogram or (C) both.  These tests are often done during a separate visit, requiring you to come back.  These tests are typically done in the office, but again they will most likely not be included in your office visit copay.  There are different types of stress tests (see our other blog post on Stress Tests) and they are all relatively expensive: from as little as $160 to as much as $4,000.  An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart.  It is a painless test that takes about 20-minutes for the technician to perform.  Echocardiograms are also relatively expensive: from as little as $200 to as much as $850.
  3. You will likely need a third visit as follow up to the first visit and to review the test results. If you are referred to a cardiologist or refer yourself to a cardiologist—be prepared for at least 3 visits over a period of 1 – 2 weeks.

What do cardiologists charge for a visit?

If you want to know what your costs will be, it is best to consider: (1) 2 office visits, (2) an EKG and (3) a stress test and/or echocardiogram. Additionally, it is important to know that more hospitals are buying cardiologist practices so that your tests are billed through the hospital (which can be more expensive). So even if you have the test done in a ‘doctor’s office’ it may actually be billed through the hospital.  The difference in cost for a stress test could be $500 if billed through the office vs. $4,000 if billed through the hospital.  With Alight’s Compass healthcare navigation solutions, we can provide this type of pricing information in advance to our members.

To learn more about how Alight helps employees become empowered healthcare consumers, visit www.alight.com.

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