Hospital Attitudes Towards Healthcare Delivery II
Gov. Donald L. Carcieri this year is pushing for legislation to require health plans to disclose to patients the negotiated amounts they pay to providers for services, procedures, tests, drugs or supplies that are subject to a deductible or coinsurance.The disclosure provisions are included as part of Senate bill 2614, introduced by Senator Leo Blais (R-Coventry/Foster/Scituate), scheduled for a hearing tomorrow.
Prices for the most common items would have to be posted on the Internet, while the rest would have to be disclosed over the phone upon request.
Both hospitals and insurers seem to think that disclosing the price of hospital costs is a bad idea…
Stephen J. Farrell, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New England, has already expressed concerns about the legislation (Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island did not reply to a request for comment for this story). Hospital executives aren’t keen on it, either.A concern about people making healthcare decisions based purely on costs is understandable. However, the executives quoted above seem to be taking this to an extreme.
For starters, they say, the information is proprietary, part of their business dealings. Secondly, they say posting prices alone to guide consumers could be disastrous, because price is only one of many important factors they should consider.
“I happen to be a fan of consumer-driven health care,” [Lifespan network senior vice president John] Gillespie said, but “it is utopia to say we’re going to have a totally transparent system” with prices on the Internet.
[Women & Infants CEO Constance] Howes and [South County Hospital CEO Louis] Giancola noted that prices alone can be deceiving, too, because consumers won’t know if a higher fee reflects higher-end equipment or expertise. Hospitals also have to keep their equipment available 24 hours a day, Howes said, and that increases their costs.
People are able to realize that price is not the only factor in decision making. An appropriate analogy here is higher education. The tuition at Brown University is very much higher than the tuition at Rhode Island College, yet the difference doesn’t create a shortage of students wanting to attend Brown. People are willing to pay extra for the advantages — that could accurately be described as advantages in “higher-end equipment and expertise” — that Brown provides.
In an emergency situation, of course, you go to the nearest hospital available. But in non-emergency situations, is there really an argument against giving people information that can help them more easily match their needs with their means?