Friday, December 02, 2011

DDN, Dunh! Transparency running scarce...

We've talked about health care pricing transparency from the very earliest days of the blog:

"The Illinois Department of Health will publish the average charges for as many as 30 common outpatient procedures ... According to a recent survey, 85% of Prairie State voters said that such information would “affect their decision” in health care matters, and 75% agreed that such disclosure would “create competition, lower prices and improve quality.”

So one supposes it's nice that my hometown newspaper finally gets around to noticing it, too:

"Even as consumers shoulder a greater share of the cost of surgeries and procedures, they often find it hard to come by the price data they need to make smart health care decisions upfront. Many have no idea what a procedure will cost them — and their health insurance company or the government — until the bills arrive in the mail."

Frankly, there's no real excuse for this: almost every company has some variation on the Navigator available to its insureds.

Of course, the rocket surgeons in DC are equally clueless:

When we contacted hospitals and physicians to obtain price information for two common services (diabetes screening and knee replacement), we generally received only incomplete estimates,” the GAO said."


Yes, it would be grand if we could, in fact, implement the McDonald's Model. The problem is that most health care consumers are using (at least a few of) other people's dollars to pay for that care. The bottom line is that, until we pay directly, we need to rely on the tools we do have available. The good news, as mentioned previously, is that they are readily available from most carriers.

But that's apparently not good enough for the brain trust at the DDN:

"Neither the insurance companies nor the hospitals would give the newspaper that information ... [the DDN] obtained that data by finding Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare members who were willing to share information from their insurers’ respective price comparison databases."

The stupid is strong in this one:

"The payments vary widely."

No kidding.

But that wasn't really the point of the article, was it, Ben?

Wasn't the point that the information was unavailable before the care was provided? Yet you just shot that point in the foot, since it obviously is available to consumers who bother to look for it.

Words fail.
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