Health Care Cost Transparency Challenge: Debunked


In the past few weeks a number of articles have been written discussing how the U.S. can bring health care costs out of hiding, making them more accessible to patients. To steal a line from the web, most health care providers would say, “the struggle is real.” Let’s just clear the air, this struggle is in fact, not real.  On the contrary, this “challenge” is just an impending shift in our industry, one that patients are asking for and providers will adopt.
So why does price transparency seem so hard to accomplish? Insurers are able to negotiate prices with hospitals, and each of the payers have different contracts. The list prices cover the costs of running the hospital and are traditionally steep and payers are able to navigate around those prices, thus shifting costs to those who are uninsured. All this means, that a hospital can’t leak their true costs because they vary from person to person.
The larger issue at hand is that physicians simply don’t want to show their prices. They’re afraid of their prices being undercut by their competitors. Physicians all around the country are likely closing their browser windows as they read this, but the sooner they bring their prices to the table, the better.
Patients can see this as a cop out, as an article in NPR pointed out, healthcare is the only commodity that buyers don’t get to know prices before they pay. Massachusetts’ new experiment in health care shopping proves that healthcare costs can be shown to the benefit of consumer-driven patients.  Save On Medical has been promoting price and quality transparency since 2011. We started with just showing costs of radiology procedures, which is where patients can get the most savings by shopping around.  So while many writers consider transparency to be “radical,” they’re wrong. It’s just the next step.