Online UPDATES

October 6, 2006



Focus on Finance

Let your suitcases take their own plane

The next time you fly, you can skip the long baggage lines by using a luggage delivery service instead. The companies will pick up your bags at your home or office and deliver them straight to your hotel. This convenience doesn't come cheap, though: You could pay a few hundred dollars to ship a couple of bags from coast to coast, and even more if you want a Saturday delivery. (Service isn't available on Sundays.) Most of the companies—which include Luggage Forward (www.luggageforward.com) and SkyCap International (www.skycapinternational.com)—offer no-cost insurance for up to $1,000 in coverage.

Saving money with a hybrid could take a loooong time

If you bought a hybrid 2006 Toyota Highlander Limited, it'll take you 16 years to save enough money at the pump to offset the extra money you paid for passing over the gas-only limited edition, says Edmunds.com, an automotive information company. But you'll break even in only three years if you buy a 2007 Ford Escape hybrid instead of the XLT model. The calculations assume that you drive 15,000 miles a year, pay $3 a gallon for gas, and get all the rebates and federal tax credits available.

Focus on Practice

The price-transparency window opens wider

Just a year after launching a program to help patients in greater Cincinnati determine what their physicians charge for specific services, Aetna has expanded the initiative to include information on 70,000 participating physicians in selected markets. Enrollees can see actual rates specific to their health plan for up to 30 of the most widely accessed services, including office visits, diagnostic tests, and minor and major procedures. Patients in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, northern Kentucky, northern Virginia, Ohio (Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Springfield), southeast Indiana, and south Florida can look up pricing, quality, and efficiency information, while price information alone is available to patients in Kansas City (Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO), Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh. While patients aren't expected to make medical decisions based solely on this data, Aetna says it's an additional resource they can use in weighing their healthcare choices. (For more on this topic, see our Special Reportin the Oct. 6, 2006 issue.)