Sutter Health’s Pricing Gives Insurers a Headache
In the recent Bloomberg Businessweek magazine the above headline caught my attention. Reading the article highlighted the problems the healthcare industry is faced with in the coming years. In this article it shared the pricing disparity for services performed at a Sutter facility vs. other facilities in the area. The example given was a simple MRI. At the Sutter California Pacific Medical Center an MRI brain scan had a charge of $3,484 while the same type of brain scan performed at Seton Medical Center had a charge of $1,150. Why such a huge difference in charges? As the article shares, Sutter Health, a non-profit healthcare organization owns nearly a third of the medical-care market in the region going from San Francisco to Sacramento. Charges typically are 40 to 70 percent more than competing hospitals.
If you were working on a network agreement or trying to negotiate with their facilities you would be trying to negotiate from a starting point that is nearly double of their competitors. Typical negotiation is working off a billed charge (that is already higher than surrounding markets) and trying to work down from this. A losing proposition.
We must look at a rational payment approach that looks at payments in a fully transparent fashion. This includes looking at what the facilities true costs are to deliver care and do a comparison of like facilities and what costs their structures look like. From this a rational margin is applied to insure profitability. If we are to continue to pay or try to negotiate from a “billed charge” basis, we are headed for an unsustainable payment environment. This article highlights the environment we are dealing with. Providers must make money, but employers must be able to afford it. This is only achieved when we bring a fully transparent and rational payment approach to the market. Read the full article.