Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar unveiled a proposal for a new “value-based health care system.” He said the goals are “giving consumers greater control over health information through interoperable and accessible health information technology; encouraging transparency from providers and payers; using experimental models in Medicare and Medicaid to drive value and quality throughout the entire system; and removing government burdens that impede this value-based transformation.”
To whittle that DC-speak down to plain language, it means trying innovative approaches, reducing bureaucracy and paperwork, and making it easier for patients to know how much various providers charge so they can shop around for the best deal, which forces providers to compete and lower prices.
One of the major drivers of high health care costs (like the infamous $50 hospital Band-Aid) is the removal of the consumer from the transaction. When hospitals bill third-party payers, whether government or insurers, there’s no incentive to ride herd on costs, which leaves people without insurance or government coverage with ridiculous bills and no big organization to go to bat to knock the charges down to something more reasonable. Patients have no idea what the charges are going to be until they see the bill, and then they have to pay to be treated for a heart attack.
This might not be the ultimate solution to all health care woes, but it’s certainly a long-overdue start. And if you don’t think transparency can have an effect on prices, then check out one of the websites that allows you to enter your prescription medications and search all local pharmacies for how much they charge for them. Once you know that one pharmacy charges $80 and one across the street charges $11 for the same pills (a situation that’s not unusual), which one would you patronize?
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