Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Free Guide to Health Pricing

I'm working very long hours right now, but I want to take a minute to point out a new site I was asked to look at. It's an expansive price guide to fair and reasonable prices for hospital visits, physician visits, dental, cosmetic surgery and more.

http://healthcarebluebook.com allows you to tap in your ZIP code and browse based on regional pricing. It's not evident, you'll need to put your ZIP code in *after* you start browsing, but once it's in it's remembered for each category.

The site nicely separates out procedures from hospital charges, so for example if you review Carpal Tunnel, you'll see the surgeon's price, the anesthetist's price, and the hospital bill. These rates are intended to reflect the amount a decent health insurer would pay, or more precisely, the amount these individuals will happily accept from an insurer.

As I've railed about before, if you have high deductibles or are self pay, you will be billed at a nonsensical sticker price that has no business or financial reason for existing outside of having a random number that once, many years ago, meant to reflect the full cost of something, but over the years has simply grown by 4% a year regardless of actual cost.

So, while the sticker price for carpal tunnel release may be $12,000 or so, Healthcare Blue Book lets me know that on average, people are getting paid about $5500 in my ZIP code.

I can then use that to negotiate with my provider.

Navigation is pretty intuitive, you can browse by condition or procedure for example, and a free form search allows you to search for words like "appendix" and get the appendectomy prices on the site.

In addition, there is a very informative "How to negotiate prices with doctors and hospitals" page, well worth the visit. All that's really missing is an "understanding your bill" page, because that's when the price issue usually hits home, when you get an unreadable bill covered in codes and numbers that are completely indecipherable.

Overall the site is extremely easy to use, is light on methodology, I'm not entirely sure where these prices are coming from, but it's clean and easy to use, so go check it out.

Full story...

Disclosures and Disclaimers


My employer is compensated through funding to provide analytical research, technology solutions, and Web-based public and private health care performance reports by the State of New York, the State of Illinois, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Commonwealth Fund and Bridges to Excellence. I am not being compensated by any of these organisations to create articles for or make edits to this Web site or any other medium; and all posts authored by me are as an individual and do not represent my employer or the agencies I work for.