In the Friday, August 13th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, I read an interesting article on the challenges hospitals are faced with in collecting from patients.
With the increases in deductibles and coinsurance, hospitals are chasing more dollars from consumers, whereas in the past they spent most of their time trying to collect the correct payments from the insurance companies. When deductibles go from $200 to $1,000 and above, patients have more skin in the game and hospitals are trying to collect from them. Today, consumers will need to ask questions they have never asked their physicians or hospitals in the past and that is, “What will you be charging me for this procedure?” In the past, a patient would walk in, show his or her insurance card and plop down the $10 copay, sign a few forms (well maybe a lot of forms) and that was the last the patient was involved in the financing of his or her health. Now with the high deductible plans in place, the patients will need to now be in financing end of the discussion.
As they say, this is the new normal. With that said the issue of pricing transparency is front and center. Consumers will need to shop around and ask for pricing. We know this is not always possible but in a substantial number of cases it is possible. The limitation is not having the necessary tools to research pricing. At NCN we have develop our consumer tool called Consumer Scope and also developed an iPhone app called Consumer Scope (please download it if you have an iPhone). We believe that a key component of driving down the cost of healthcare is to shop around and compare pricing and quality.
Ten years ago this idea would have been laughed out of the room, but look what has happened in the last few years. Retail clinics such as Minute Clinic have exploded onto the scene. Simple, straight forward pricing clearly marked is available for the consumer to see. Websites such as ours are beginning to draw consumers and research charges. Hospitals should encourage the use of these tools since it helps prevent surprises after the procedure is performed. Being hit with a medical bill and not realizing what the charges would be is no long acceptable. An educated consumer is the best customer.