Thursday, February 20, 2014

Medical prices not available

Health care must be the only business where people are not allowed to know what they are paying for. NPR Radio reports:
Kershner works for a nonprofit called , which is starting to make health care prices publicly available in Colorado. His boss, , says knowing prices can change the whole health care ball game. ...

Colorado is one of eleven states that are starting to make public a lot of health care prices. It's taken years. An "" is the first step in Colorado. It's basically a giant shoebox that aims to collect a copy of every receipt for a health care service in a given state. Since doctors and hospitals generally don't tell people how much services cost beforehand, the best way to figure out the price is to get receipts from the parties that pay the bills: insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare, mostly.

The more such information is made public, Sonn says, the more people will "vote with their feet" and migrate away from high-cost providers.
But there are laws that get in the way:
But there's a glitch. In order to get the kinds of reports Ehrenberger and other health care providers want, they have to include price information from all payers, and one of the biggest is Medicare — it pays about a fifth of all health care bills in Colorado. At the moment, Edie Sonn explains, they cannot use that Medicare data in any of the custom reports they want to sell.
A snippet of the data ProPublica obtained from the federal government about Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit for seniors.

"Current federal law restricts what we can do with that Medicare data," she says. "The only thing you can use their data for is public reporting."
I don't get this. California car mechanics are required to give a written estimate in advance, or they are no right to get paid. Medical providers could do the same.

Only a dishonest business refuses to put its prices on its web site. I am surprised that anyone pays medical bills, when the amounts were never authorized in advance.

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