Thursday, May 20, 2010

Doctor Pricing Upfront and Transparent

A company in the Los Angeles area called HealthyPrice has posted prices on its website for 400 procedures and over 100 physician office visit fees.  For patients without insurance or who have high deductibles, the ability to go online and really "shop" for the best deal is something long overdue.

Here is how it works.  The patient goes online and chooses the provider for the test.  It might be a lab study or an MRI or a colonoscopy.  The patient pays in advance and receives a billing code to bring to the physican's office.  HealthyPrice handles the payment, minus a billing fee, and pays the doctor or lab via check or Paypal.  The doctor has no paperwork to handle and HealthyPrice has an arrangement in place for discounted laboratory testing.

Obviously people are not going to be able to use this type of discount service for emergencies, nor does it guarantee any type of quality care.  But for blood tests, imaging tests or even some procedures, knowing what it will cost upfront and being able to chose is great.  The idea that patients have no idea what something will cost until after the fact is crazy.  I do think U.S health care is the only "industry" that can get away with this.  Alternatively, for the doctor,  U.S. health care is the only industry that can get away with not paying the bill at all AFTER the service is rendered.  It is a system that is set up to benefit no-one except the middle man.

I have long been an advocate of price transparency in health care.  This is a small  step in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

It would seem to me that doctors offices should just have a price range for certain things on a list to be able to quote a patient on the phone if they call. Usually you need to know you can afford it before going in or how to budget your money unless you have a large income to work with or insurance that covers everything.

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

I agree that the current opaque and complex medical pricing system is absurd. While I also support more transparency, we must be cautious about patients seeking bargain medical care, as they might do in purchasing an appliance. There may not be a quality issue if you are shopping for blood tests, but this is not the same as choosing a colonoscopy or surgical procedure. The issue of measuring medical quality is red hot, and not welcomed by most physicians. I'm a skeptic also as I don't feel that there is any reliable way to measure medical quality. What really counts, can't be measured. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

I think that these procedures are not always the best one, I prefer to go directly to the Doctor because in that way there aren't confusions.

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