Medical care is the only sector of my budget where I don't have the freedom to shop carefully for quality and price before I make a purchase ["To Cut Healthcare Costs, Let's Start With the Secret Prices," usnews.com]. Because each medical entity (doctor's office visit, prescription, lab test) costs a different amount based on insurance coverage, most doctors and their offices have no clue how much their office visit cost you, nor do they know the prices you'll pay for whatever services they've just ordered (tests, prescriptions, etc.). Transparency and availability of fees would give healthcare consumers the data they need to participate in the system in a cost-effective manner.
Comment by Belinda Robinson of MD
Dr. Bernadine Healy is correct that exorbitant prices contribute to excessive healthcare costs. But a much larger contribution derives from the chaotic nature of American healthcare, as a system characterized by unnecessary facilities, tests, procedures, and specialty referrals driven by a fee for service paradigm that rewards excess. She contradicts her claim that selective overcharging is the main villain by stating, correctly, that Medicare costs are escalating at unsustainable rates, similar to private insurer costs, although Medicare, as she states, pays "rock bottom" reimbursements for services that cost more elsewhere. Rectifying cost inequities would be worthwhile, but would do little in the absence of a dramatic restructuring of healthcare delivery.
Comment by Fred Moolten of PA
Rarely does a news reporter dig up anything as original and revealing as what was reported in this article. The entire pricing structure for medical services is a terrible mess. I know this because my spouse is a physician who is embarrassed by the fact that [physicians] may get paid anywhere between $150 to $2,500 for the same procedure, depending on the patients' insurance coverage. Please keep digging on this story. You have only touched the tip if a very ugly iceberg.
Comment by D. Martin of CA
How about we do this: tell hospitals and doctors that they can charge any price they want, but they have to charge the same price (for the same service) to everyone. Also, they have to post their price schedule publicly, on the Internet or at their office. Two exceptions: the government can negotiate discounts for Medicare/Medicaid, and health care providers are permitted to donate services for free to the uninsured or indigent (and get a tax deduction for a portion of the donated services). Supermarkets, retail stores and lots of other companies charge the same price to all customers—why on earth do we permit health care providers to exploit us when we are at our most vulnerable?
Comment by James of CA
I can't remember a single time where I paid the agreed upon cost for a medical procedure. If my veterinary hospital worked like that I'm sure they would have no business. If my dentist's office charged hidden fees I'd go elsewhere. I think what the problem is that hospitals and doctors are so used to dealing with insurance, where the consumer often doesn't even know what is being charged, that there is no incentive to be cost conscious, hence the lavish atrium and top of the line decorating. Personally I think medical care should, at least, be required to adhere to the same standards of conduct as auto repair when it comes to pricing.
Comment by Mike Cook of MI