August 5, 2014

NOW IMAGINE YOU MADE THEM SPEND THEIR OWN MONEY:

When health care prices stop being hidden, and start getting real (Sarah Kliff on August 5, 2014, Vox)

Over the past two years the Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans have been running a quiet experiment, to see what would happen if prices became available in some cities but not others. And they found that just the act of making prices available can have a really dramatic impact on what they had to spend to get patients a very basic procedure.

How much is that MRI in the window?

For the experiment, the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans used a very standard procedure, an MRI scan, where there's little (if any) variation in quality from one provider to another.

In St. Louis and Atlanta, for example, patients would be told how much an MRI would cost at different providers. But in Chicago and Kansas City they wouldn't get that information; they would go about setting up an MRI at their facility of choice, without any data on price.

In the cities where price data was available, there was no penalty for choosing the higher-priced option; consumers weren't told they couldn't go get scanned in the more expensive MRI machine.

But just providing the data proved to be powerful: in the course of two years, the average price per MRI fell by $95, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs. Prices at hospitals that didn't post charges rose by $124.

Health care costs can't withstand commodification.
Posted by at August 5, 2014 7:05 PM
  
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