Why not publicly report hospital costs and insurance company payments?

This summer Massachusetts passed a new transparency law meant to publicize how much insurance companies pay to different hospitals for different treatments. It will also create a reporting system for how much hospital costs are increasing.

In North Carolina most people have no idea how much an MRI scan costs at UNC or Duke or Baptist and most people have no way to find out. If you have insurance then the price is negotiated between the provider and your insurance company. Those contracts are not public information.

But the amount paid to different hospitals by different insurance companies depends on the relative market power of the hospital and the insurer. If a particular hospital owns the only beds around then the provider has greater leverage. And big insurance companies that represent more customers have more clout to pay lower rates. But why should all of this information be secret?

Making these rates public should get progressive and conservative support. Proponents of high-deductible health plans should certainly support more transparency as it would make shopping around easier for patients. And if a particular hospital says it needs more money because of cost increases we can see if that is the case and if those costs are legitimate.

I’m sure insurance companies and hospitals would have something to say about the matter. I could be missing something, but it seems like a good move for consumers.

7 Comments

  1. Alex

    August 31, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    At Duke under the SHP an MRI of the brain is $3344.00, the Plan pays $1,137.58. The day prior Duke asked me to bring $895 copay to the MRI. Then there is the Specialist fee and the Radiologist fee and the two campus fees.

    Duke charges two campus fees because the MRI is in a bunch of trailers seperate from the main hospital.

    I had a Doctor once who had charges for everything in the waiting room. No surprise. An inch of sutures was $135 dollars.

  2. Louie

    August 31, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    making comparative data available via the Division of Facility Serives and Dept. of Insurance to ‘consumers’ was tried in the early to mid 90s during the last go around at ‘reform’ and the hospital association killed it.

  3. Adam Linker

    September 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Everything old, I guess.

  4. Lou Meyers

    September 1, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Louie, let me guess, their excuse for killing it was “more red tape”.

    We obviously know the real reason they prefer darkness to light but why do we keep allowing them these viable — albeit insincere —arguments?

    There is only one way out of this misery perpetuating charade and we all know what that is.

  5. Oly

    September 11, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Suicide? (That is the only answer, rather than lose everything you’ve worked for your entire life.)

  6. Lou Meyers

    September 22, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Oly, not implying suicide but Medicare for All

    —although some so distressed and depressed may sadly take that route thanks to our brutal HEALTH CARE system.

    What a tragic irony!

  7. jesse

    December 8, 2010 at 4:24 am

    mac makeup wholesaleThat’s by the government.