Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pricing Transparency In Minnesota

A new website promises to provide pricing transparency to Minnesota residents.

The site can be found at and is offered by MN Community Measurement.

It primarily focuses on primary care services covering office visits, minor procedures and surgeries, labs, mental health and obstetrics. Just over 100 providers are listed in the new service.

The site is generally better and more informative that most state's pricing transparency efforts. The information includes specific provider pricing information such as the average price and the range of prices for each provider based upon what they typically charge insured patients.

For a list of other state specific sites see Healthcare Blue Book.

I can recommend that Minnesota consumers use this site, but they must remain aware that the prices provided are not a guarantee of the actual price patients will pay. Consumers must still make sure they request specific pricing prior to receiving services. Consumers can get free tips on how to discuss pricing with their doctors at Healthcare Blue Book.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Americans can agree on many healthcare reforms

Recently John Mackey wrote a thought provoking editorial in the Wall Street Journal- The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

While some take issue with his suggestions for health reform, it is nice to hear an alternative to the assumption in Washington that the government can or should solve every problem by increasing the federal government’s involvement in personal and local issues.

Of course we need some health reforms, but the current proposal lacks many opportunities for improvement that the vast majority of the American people would support.

To name three easy ones addressed in Mackey’s article:

Pricing Transparency- What American would argue for a system that allows some patients to be charged 3, 5 or even 10 times more than the next patient for the same service at the same location? Who would support a system that allows hospitals to charge those without any insurance much more than those with insurance? The government doesn’t need to set prices; that would rightly offend many Americans as limiting the markets or freedoms. But there should be broad public support for pricing transparency so that patients will know how much healthcare services will cost and a simple rule that hospitals will charge all patients the same price.

Equal tax treatment for health insurance- What Americans would vote against allowing individuals to deduct their health insurance but allow companies to do so? The vast majority would support equalizing the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits.

Tort Reform- What American would vote against tort reform? The lawyers, sure. Anyone else? So let’s say 85% support for this one. Are the politicians listening to the people? No, they left this out too.

Since the politicians are leaving out the easy improvements that most voters would support, we have to ask ourselves who are the politicians listening to? If not the voters, then maybe the lobbyist? Big business?

With a 1000+ page bill, they ought to be able to find room for the simple things that most Americans would support.

Keep the dialogue going, maybe at some point the politicians will listen.