Detroit Free Press: Shopping comes to health care: More hospitals post prices, negotiate costs
... In some of the most significant changes in decades, hospital systems are beginning to post their prices publicly and offer a range of help, including big discounts to uninsured and underinsured people with limited household incomes.
Health insurers also have embraced the trend. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Health Alliance Plan, Priority Health and Aetna are among those with improved Web sites that provide the average cost of a procedure. Some sites even zoom in on local prices when visitors type in their ZIP code.
"It's a fundamental shift" in how health care prices are set and publicized, said Stephen Hathaway, chief revenue officer for the Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System. ...
... Traditionally hospital pricing has been based on what the industry calls "charges" -- the sticker price hospitals would love to get from everyone -- not lower rates negotiated with insurers.
What's coming is more information about average costs insurers typically pay for a medical service, along with information about doctor fees. Still, the information can be confusing, and prices can vary widely for all kinds of reasons, from the use of organized labor to hospitals' care for uninsured people, which may be passed on to other customers.
"Our hope is that people will make the right decision based on price and quality," Jeff Rubleski, Blues director of sales strategy, said of the price listings. "When a member sees a huge variance" in a service, "questions can be asked," he said. "It enables and empowers the member in ways we didn't see in health care 10 years ago."
He and others say transparency on health prices eventually will eliminate big cost differences among providers because no one will want to look as if their prices are out of line with going rates. ...
An actual market for healt care services. It comes with the patient having more control and it lowers the costs since health care suppliers having to compete for patients. What a novel idea. ;-)