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Health Reform: List prices on everything. New websites may help this happen

By Dr. Sutton Graham on October 30, 2009


My view on health reform is very different from current media and congressional measures. I would like to see financially empowered individuals drive the system, rather than ever expanding government bureaucracies and insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Published prices would help individuals. All patients are shocked and amazed when they see their hospital, physician and laboratory charges (not the amounts actually paid, just what they charge before insurance contractual discounts). I would like to see all list prices widely available, in advance. (Our fees are easily available to callers, and given in writing during a consultation.)

A recent Wall Street Journal article was titled, "Lifting the Veil on Pricing for Health Care." (Wed, Oct. 28, 2009) This shows some early attempts to use the web to let people know and compare prices. It is not the same as each company giving us their prices in advance, or publishing them for all to see. That would be better, but these websites are an attempt.

Article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704222704574499623333862720.html

Independent websites: www.outofpocket.com www.newchoicehealth.com www.changehealthcare.com and www.healthcarebluebook.com (some estimates may be unreliable and non-specific)

The government programs have set fees for Medicare (federal, elderly & disabled)(www.cms.hhs.gov) and Medicaid (state/federal, low income). Their websites may show their allowed amounts. Most hospitals and physicians cannot remain in business on the low amounts these government programs provide, without other sources of income. They certainly cannot provide the care that many of us are accustomed to today.

Even patients with "good" insurance would benefit from the influence that comparison has in a marketplace. I think we call that transparency.

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