Monday, February 24, 2014
Healthcare's Muddy Transparency
Last week Jay Zee’s blog entitled Digital Medicine is Within Reach, discussed the benefit of opening up the healthcare debate and making information regarding illnesses, viruses, etc. easily accessible along. Last week’s class discussion centered around the website Healthcare.org. Below I discuss another ancillary topic surrounding the digitization and question whether we have thus far squandered away an opportunity that has not been exploited to the detriment of the American public.
An area in the healthcare debate that is front and center the cost of healthcare to the individual. Due to the Healthcare reform act, nearly everyone is required to obtain some form of healthcare. As such, costs plays a significant role in deciding which plan to choose. Whether to buy a “gold” or “silver” plan on healthcare.org, one must make assumptions on how much healthcare insurance that they require. Drilling down even further on this analysis, an individual may wish to calculate how much a specific surgery cost and if their selected plan would cover.
It is at this moment, when the individuals tries to research the cost of a “service”, in this case surgery, that they may run into a roadblock.
A recent Wall Street Journal article reported on this topic. Unlike other industries where you’re able to research the cost of a product or service before your purchase, the healthcare industry has done an impressive job at hiding the true cost of a procedure. Moreover, the few websites that do cover the costs, of say joint replacement surgery, vary widely. For example in Oklahoma, the cost of joint replacement surgery was $5,300 compared to $223,000 in California. Even more alarming is the fact that although this known cost discrepancy exists, nothing has been done by our government to shed light on the price gouging that goes on in the healthcare industry.
PricingHealtcare.com is a website where individuals can go online to view the costs of common procedure. United Health Group is another first mover empowering consumers. Their websites officers its members a tool where they can compare negotiated rates for more than 500 services. Alarmingly, only 2% of ther members accessed such tools, because of the lack of awareness that this service existed.
If the government is mandating everyone has healtchare insurance, should the consumer have easy access to the prices of the healthcare services? Keeping in line with government transparency, should the government provide, or at a minimum, require network providers and hospitals to provide a range that a typical surgery or procedure may cost?