By Katie Jickling

When Dr. Paul Reiss refers his patients for an MRI, the easiest option for the Williston doctor would be to send them to the University of Vermont Medical Center 15 minutes away. Instead, he’s referring them out of state.

Cheaper prices are worth the drive, Reiss explained. He often sends his patients to Glens Falls, New York, for the medical imaging scans.

The sticker price at Glens Falls Hospital for a brain MRI, according to BlueCross BlueShield of Vermont is $988; at UVM Medical Center’s affiliated Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York, it costs nearly $3,964.

Despite his efforts to save patients money, Reiss, a partner at Evergreen Family Health, regularly sees Vermonters who decide not to seek care at all.

“People cannot afford their care,” he said.

That may increasingly be the case. UVM Medical Center, the state’s largest health care provider, has absorbed dozens of hospitals and medical practices over the past nine years. And while proponents of the consolidation say it promotes efficiencies and better care, it has also coincided with rising health care costs in Vermont. This year, the state’s two major insurance companies instituted double-digit rate increases. continue to site