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A Simple Solution to the problem of Price Transparency

Stanley Feld MD,FACP,MACE

Kinky Friedman, are you listening?

The fees paid to all physicians and hospitals for services and procedures should be published on the Internet by an impartial body. Alongside the multiple wholesale fees should be the providers’ retail fee schedule. This would create a system of complete fee transparency. Insurance companies negotiate fees with each provider. The fees of one provider might be different than the fees of another vendor. The posting of these prices on the internet could be required by each State Insurance Board before an insurance company could obtain a license to sell health insurance in each state for each insurance product. This would result in a transparent range of fees from retail to wholesale per insurance company and per provider. Justification for the range of fees could be explained on the web site. Only then would the prices and fees be transparent to the consumer. The consumer (patient) would have adequate information to make a decision to pick the provider of his choice.

Medicare has published fees on the Internet. Price Transparency in Medicare is the goal. However, it has to be simplified. The fees are difficult to figure out.

This is a simple process. It would create competitive pricing among insurance carriers, and providers. The format could be the same as C/Net for electronics purchases. Patients could also add their critique of their care. In High Noon, J.F. Rischard suggests we are merely at the onset of solving problems through the use of the internet. The patients (consumer), along with a little help from the government, can precipitate this change.

Even if the governor of each state required this posting of the insurance industry, it would have little impact on the uninsured. However, Price Transparency is essential if Consumer Driven Healthcare is going to fulfill its promise. It would be a very important step in Repairing the Healthcare System. It would get patient participation in decision making about their care.

Dr. Westbrock mentioned that the insurance industry has subverted the HSA concept. He is correct. The Health Saving Account concept in its original form was called Medical Savings Accounts (MSA). The original concept was designed to motivate the patients to be a price conscious of their medical care purchases. Price Transparency would be the vehicle they would use to choose. More of this is the future.

Please consider Price Transparency in light of my earlier statements. Presently, the healthcare system is broken because all of the stakeholders’ incentives are misaligned. Everyone has adjusted to protect his own vested interest at the expense of the patient, the most important stakeholder. Everyone is in pain at the present time because of the systems dysfunction. Everyone can adjust if the heat goes up slowly. The price simply goes up. Everyone will talk about the problems but no one seems to fix them as they should be fixed. The goal of this blog is to inform the patients and future patients of the problems and empower the patients and future patients to act through their local and state governments to create the necessary alignment. The goal is to serve all of the stakeholders’ vested interest. However, the patients and future patients have to get a good deal rather than a raw deal.

Price transparency should be on an impartial web site. The web site should be available for everyone who chose to subscribe free of charge. The patient should have the ability to judge the services of the insurance company and physicians. Physicians, insurances companies and other stakeholders should have the ability to reply if they chose to. A web site such as CNet would be great for this endeavor. The technology is available.

This is not rocket science. Insurance companies, physicians and hospitals have a data base they could download to the impartial site. They could be compelled to participate by each state. It is time to level the playing field for the patient and physician.

Kinky Freidman could make one tenet of his healthcare policy. He would be wildly applauded. As the new governor of the State of Texas he could require the Texas State Board of Insurance to demand this data. The action is neither a Democratic Party nor Republican Party action. It is a common sense action

Kinky’s claim is he is not owned by anyone except common sense. This seems like common sense to me.

Go for it Kinky!

Remember Price Transparency is only going to solve part of the problem. The rest of the solutions to Repairing the Healthcare System will follow.

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