I have a high deductible health insurance policy, so I am very cost-conscious when it comes to purchasing health care. At least twice a year, my doctor makes me get a comprehensive blood test. The amount I pay for that test can range from $100 to $250, depending on how the lab bills the test and how the insurance company decides to apply discounts. Oddly enough, the exact same blood test has netted me about 6 different prices over the last few years. Most of the time, I end up paying about $200 or $225 for the test. Until now!

My doctor's assistant turned me on to a company called Direct Laboratory Services, Inc. The concept is simple. You order a test, pay for it in advance with a credit card, get a list of laboratories near you, take the paperwork to the lab, and have your test done. You can select a lab from a huge list of participating labs, so you can essentially go where you want. The cost of my regular blood test is only $89... less than half of what I usually pay.

The benefits of Direct Labs are twofold. First, you get a bargain basement price on a lab test at the exact same lab you've always been going to. Second, you get the test results sent directly to you. No more having to call your doctor to see if they've received (or lost) your results.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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