Quoting from Joan Lowy’s Associated Press article on airline fees:

“But as many airlines offer a proliferating list of add-on services, from early boarding to premium seating and baggage fees, the ability to comparison-shop for the lowest total fare is eroding.”  Orbitz and Expedia are complaining that “airlines won’t provide fee information in a way that lets them make it handy for consumers trying to find the best deal.”  

Simon Gros, chairman of the Travel Technology Association, quoted in the same article provides the punchline:  ”What other industry can you think of where a person buying a product doesn’t know how much it’s going to cost even after he’s done at the checkout counter?” I can think of one. 

Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition is quoted, as well: …the harder airlines make it for consumers to compare, “the greater opportunity you have to get to higher prices.”  

This gets even better.  What do you think the reaction of the government is to this fee  non-transparency?  They are considering legislation to mandate fee transparency!  These airlines are big and powerful companies but I guess they don’t have nearly the same swing that the big health corporations have, the most extreme fee-hiders.  

I think it is telling that we never had a discussion or debate in this country about what health care should cost or how prices were determined, let alone entertain transparency.  It is as if this was the very discussion that all of the players were trying so hard to avoid.  ”Move on sir…there’s nothing to see here….health care is expensive and there’s nothing to be done about it, no reason to even talk about it…..hurry along….let’s just make sure that everyone is required to buy insurance and never talk about any possible savings or delivery alternatives….move along.”   

We have shown our prices and the effect has been deflationary in our local area.  This deflationary effect is affecting a larger and larger area as patients travel from farther and farther distances to take advantage of our pricing.  The surgeons and facilities losing this business are scrambling, suddenly finding themselves in a market where they will have to compete if they don’t wish to lose further patients.

That is the nature of competition.  Better care.  Lower prices.  Consumer/patient focused.  In no other industry has free market, consumer-focused service and care been more discouraged than in health care.  Now that I think about it, the lack of transparency in health pricing actually received cover from this government, not the sanctions the airlines are about to endure!  Incredible.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.