This article in the L.A. Times reports on the basic refusal of California hospitals and physicians to reveal their prices for common procedures in spite of a state law requiring them to. Some hospitals comply by listing their prices on a state website, but not on their own. Some simply refuse to comply.
Followers of this blog are aware that revealing prices to inquiries is a start but is probably not sufficient when it comes to price transparency in the medical marketplace. Revealing prices is one thing. Displaying them is quite another. We display our prices for virtually all of the procedures we do at our facility. If we are wrong, we eat the loss.
I enjoy reading articles like this that list the excuses for not displaying prices. If you were to believe these “experts” quoted in the article, you would come to the conclusion that it’s just not possible to do this. “People are not cars,” one person said. If this display of prices is not possible, how are we doing it?
Want the real answer? Lots of folks are making loads and loads of money that are lurking in the shadows of this dysfunctional medical marketplace, and their reaction to the light of day would be like that of a blood-sucking vampire. The uncompensated care scam, the PPO repricing scam, the high and uncollectable bills used to justify the fiction of the not-for-profit status of some of these outfits…I could go on. Price transparency reveals all of these scams for what they are.
I am personally against mandating or legislating price transparency. I think that the market will be cruel and unforgiving to those who do not embrace this free market approach. Those displaying their prices will get busier and busier and those clinging to the old deceitful model will wither away.
How can I be so sure? I run a facility where we display our prices. We are getting busier all the time because of that. As a physician and medical director and owner of a medical facility I am in a unique position to appreciate the beauty and power of the free market in connection with the delivery of health care. We hope that many others will join us in this move toward price transparency. Breaking the back of the current health cartel, the result of which will be lower prices and higher quality of care, depends on it.
G. Keith Smith, M.D.