I’ve been an advocate for price transparency in healthcare for as long as I can remember. Even then and until now, health insurance companies and healthcare policy experts have been proclaiming that it’s coming to a healthcare market near you.
Implementing price transparency would seem to be the way to foster more of a free-market approach to healthcare, where consumers have the ability to make choices as to which doctor or facility will provide their healthcare, based on price and quality. When price transparency becomes a reality, the market will more effectively set the price for care and procedures, and theoretically that should result in lower prices and more satisfaction for all.
Some healthcare companies are taking a different approach to pricing their services in an effort to attract consumers by providing an easy, understandable pricing model. They’re thinking more like retailers and pricing their services in a “bundle,” instead of the traditional medical model that involves including the cost of every procedure and supply used as a single line item.
For example, instead of charging a patient who presents at the doctor for a suspected urinary tract infection for an exam, a urinalysis, and a urine culture, some providers have taken the top 30 or so most-common presenting complaints and have started charging one price for everything involved in the visit. This saves on administrative and billing costs for the provider, and makes it simpler for the insurance company to process the claim. And it allows consumers to more easily comparison shop between service providers, since the costs are established up front, and consumers can make a decision as to which provider to choose based on that information.
Hopefully this new thinking will catch hold and spread quickly around the healthcare world, and other healthcare providers will begin to innovate more with respect to new pricing methods.
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.