We have already started to post prices for things that many patients buy directly, such as lab tests and imaging exams [such as X-rays]. We will soon add things like routine office visits and simple procedures, like screening colonoscopy. Later we will add major treatments like delivering a newborn, or surgery to implant an artificial knee joint.While we will post prices on our website, probably the most effective sharing of cost information will happen through our insurance partners’ websites. We believe that patients will mostly want to know what their own out-of-pocket costs will be, given that they’ve already paid for their health insurance. That’s true even if your “insurance plan” is the care delivery group.
Price transparency tools like this have the ability to bend the health care cost curve without involving any federal re-organization of the system. Where states and private health care providers have pushed price transparency, the results have been impressive. When people have all the information they need to make good decisions about they’re health care, they often choose more economical options, thereby driving down prices throughout the whole region. This has started happening in a part of Oklahoma, for example, thanks to the Oklahoma Surgery Center. Price transparency may not be a cure-all for what ails our system, but economizing measures like this are essential to making any bigger reforms easier and more effective.[Photo of stethoscope and money courtesy of Shutterstock.]