Path For Price Transparency Clearer For Patients


We can all give Kathleen Sebelius and Steven Brill big high fives and hugs for the price transparency revolution they’ve helped start. Last week the government released the pricing at various hospitals for the 100 most common procedures. This revelation has proven the pricing gap and variances between hospitals, even in the same cities, and made it become more widely known and publicized to the patient population that they should be price shopping.
This data dump of hospital charges comes from a master list called the “chargemaster,” which we explained in a post last month.  For uninsured patients, this information is significantly helpful. Unfortunately for patients with insurance, these numbers can only serve as an estimate, as private insurance companies determine separate rates through the hospitals.  We are proud to see that Medicare is aiming to increase price transparency and give patients better access to tools to make smarter decisions.
A main concern of most journalists seems to be that while the prices are being shown, this data does nothing to provide information on quality.
In an article from The Washington Post, it was written, “Patients might assume, as they do in shopping for cars or houses, that the more expensive hospital will provide superior care.” We know that quality and cost are not directly related when it comes to the healthcare industry, especially when you take into account hospital owned clinics versus independent providers.  Patients of course do not want to make the wrong decision when it comes to the care, which is why they usually trust their family doctors with most referral decisions. We are able to provide quality grades alongside the pricing for the radiology procedures listed on Save On Medical, which helps patients make smarter decisions, but it is clear that quality will be harder to distinguish at hospitals and hospital owned practices.
Regardless, this unveiling contributes significantly to the path paving that Steven Brill and The Catalyst for Payment Reform have lain down for transparency. It is becoming more and more apparent that we are catching the healthcare consumerism wave at the right time.