The medical costs and price shopping story I wrote about last Tuesday appeared today in USA Today: Health care costs are a medical mystery. (Nice play on words – usually “medical mystery” is about diagnosing a disease, and this dysfunction sure could use some sleuthing!)
I’d love to see this coverage taken to the next level. The text and the bar chart talk about the crazy variation from city to city – an angioplasty costs four times as much in Sacramento as in Birmingham – but I know lots of people who just shrug and think “Well, Sacramento must be more expensive.” The thing that really gets savvy consumers going is when the same thing costs wildly more in the same city.
Like, how about if getting a tooth filled costs five times more in New York City, depending on where you go? Or a vasectomy costs eight times more? Or an MRI costs 3x more? Or a mammogram costs twelve times more? Or a walk-in doctor visit costs seventeen times more?? All within one city?
The company that’s working to publish THAT kind of “secret malarkey,” as I called it in the interview, is Clear Health Costs. (Disclosure: founder Jeanne Pinder has become a friend, because I love what she’s slaved for years to create – I wish I had it in my neighborhood!)
Here’s a screen capture of their home page. Click it to go look for yourself.
In the article I cited Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt’s epic 2006 article “Pricing of Hospital Services: Chaos Behind a Veil of Secrecy.” (Read that headline again!) Almost nothing has changed (in nine years!)
So I think it’s up to us, as consumers, to say “Cut the crap, you guys! What is this going to cost?? Do not tell me you don’t know! You’re better than that!”
It’s not just about ratting out those who overcharge. We as consumers need to reward the ones who are working hard to do a good job at a good price. We can only do that if prices are brought out into the daylight – city by city, within the city, as Clear Health Costs is slaving to do.
Be empowered – ask for what you want, for what we need! It’s so important for us, the people with a medical need, to be able to reward the providers who are working hard to do a good job.