Consumer-Driven Healthcare: Driving Blind

Consumer-driven healthcare plans combine high-deductible health insurance with a health savings account for routine care. The goal is to give patients a direct stake in the cost of medical care. Fans of this strategy hold a firm conviction that it can harness market forces to control healthcare costs. A recent report highlights a significant gap in what’s needed to make this work — good information on healthcare prices.

The report — issued by two nonprofits committed to making the market for healthcare work better — gave healthcare price transparency in most (36) states a grade of “D” or “F.” Only two states earned an “A.”

Suzanne Delbanco is Executive Director of  Catalyst for Payment Reform, an employer coalition that sponsored the report. She commented on the findings:

Health care costs continue to rise and consumers are increasingly being required to take on a growing share of those costs. In this environment, it is only fair and logical to ensure that consumers have the information they need about quality and cost to make informed decisions about where to seek care. There is definitely a role for public policy and state legislation to support these efforts.

Francois de Brantes, Executive Director of HCI3, the report’s other sponsor, also commented:

We know from studies that the price for an identical health care procedure performed in the same city can vary by as much as 700 percent, with no difference in quality. When consumers shop for value, they can help rein in health care costs; but to do this, they first need timely and actionable price information.

Much news has been made this week about the release of government information on the shocking range in what healthcare providers charge for the same services. Even so, this information is still not accessible to an average person.

If we want everyone to take responsibility for good choices and good health, we better give them good options first. Otherwise we’ll just be blaming them for losing a game that’s rigged against them. And nobody will want to play.

Click here to read more in the Indianapolis Star. Click here and here to access more information on the report from CPR and HCI3. Click here to read more about healthcare pricing in the New York Times.

Driving into Sunlight, image © U.K. Highways Agency / flickr

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