Distorting the Doctor-Patient Relationship

As Arnold Ahlert explains, the problem goes far beyond distorting the doctor-patient relationship — too bad conservatives don’t reach enough people with this simple message:

Imagine knowing how much a medical procedure cost before undergoing it…

Imagine an American going to the supermarket to buy a loaf of bread and, when discovering that it has no price marked on it, inquiring how much it cost — only to be asked a question in return: What type of food insurance do you have? Most people would consider such a scenario bizarre. Unfortunately, if one changes “loaf of bread” to “knee operation,” the rest of the story becomes quite familiar.

Why familiar? Because the same Americans who would be infuriated by such a scenario at the supermarket have long grown accustomed — or is that resigned — to the idea that price transparency for healthcare services is as elusive as the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. This is no accident. Contrary to food pricing, there are a host of middlemen between the consumer and the provider whose own interests depend on obscuring those prices. Self-remunerating interests that often inflate the cost of healthcare. And because true transparency is anathema to those interests, the Trump administration’s effort to provide it is meeting stiff resistance.

In 2018, the administration released a rule requiring hospitals to post their “chargemaster” rates, or list the prices for their services online. For those unfamiliar with medical lingo, a chargemaster is “a list of all the billable services and items to a patient or a patient’s health insurance provider,” explains columnist Jacqueline LaPointe. “The chargemaster captures the costs of each procedure, service, supply, prescription drug, and diagnostic test provided at the hospital, as well as any fees associated with services, such as equipment fees and room charges.”

All of those charges require billing codes, and the costs they generate are the result of negotiations between hospitals and insurance providers. Right now both entities consider those negations to be proprietary and confidential — meaning the cost of something depends on the secret deal one’s particular insurance provider has made with the hospital.

Read more: Patriot Post