How much is that going to cost, Doc?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal:

What’s the cost of surgery for a spinal fusion of the lower back in southeastern Wisconsin?

It can range from $25,000 to more than $50,000.

The price depends on the hospital and the doctors. And that’s just for patients covered by one insurer — Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. It would differ for other health insurers.

The wide disparity in prices explains why businesses and consumers contend that more information on what hospitals and doctors charge is needed to lower costs and make the health care system work better.

Seconded.  But there’s a problem:

Yet the effort to provide consumers with meaningful information on prices is proving to be a lot slower and more complicated than expected.

Transparent pricing is an important bit of information patients could use in selecting providers and choosing where to seek medical care.  But as the article states, it’s not always an easy task for a patient to find such information.  Hospitals have an opportunity to make that easier.

Two health systems in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, post prices.  Sanford Health posts price averages for the top 25 diagnoses at its main hospital prominently on its website.  The table displays information in four categories: minimum, median, average, and maximum charges along with specifics about charge, length of stay, out of pocket cost with coverage, and out of pocket cost without coverage.

Competitor Avera also posts price information, although it is more difficult to find and doesn’t provide as much information.

Here’s a comparison on strokes: Sanford, Avera.

There’s obviously still room for improvement.  But it’s a great start.  Price transparency helps us toward what really matters: competition on value.

As covered previously, at least one health system is working hard on making prices transparent amongst a group of competitors.

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