Leslie Goldfarb of Charlotte had been talking to two surgeons about knee surgery and worrying about her out-of-pocket costs.
When she recently read about a new online database from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, she checked the average reimbursement for those surgeons. One of them averaged about $1,500 less in total costs associated with the arthroscopic surgery she’s having. And Blue Cross pays about twice as much if the same doctors do the procedure in a hospital – costs that pass through to her with a high-deductible plan.
She used that data to schedule her surgery.
“You don’t have to legislate medical costs to come down,” Goldfarb said. “All you have to do is make the information available.”
That’s the idea.
Until recently the cost of medical care had been a closely guarded trade secret and patients had little reason to care when health insurance covered most of the expense. Now, however, as patients become responsible for more of their medical costs, such information is seeping out through online tools.
How that will play out in the medical marketplace remains to be seen, but Blue Cross’ North Carolina disclosure is creating national buzz. A recent post on Forbes.com said it could “represent the dawn of a new age in health care.”
“Transparency in general is a good thing,”...
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