It’s a Start

In the past I've written extensively about how frustrating our health care and health insurance systems are in the good ol' US of A.  As I see it one of the biggest obstacles to true health care reform in this country is the lack of transparency in the system, or in laymen's terms, the fact that you generally have no idea how bad you're screwed until well after you've received whatever treatment or service for which you visited the doctor.

That's why I was very interested in this piece at the Triad Business Journal's blog:

Passed last week in the waning days of this year's legislative session, the "Health Care Cost Reduction and Transparency Act of 2013" (House Bill 834) will create an online database of what hospitals are paid, on average, for the 100 treatments they perform most frequently. They'll also be reporting their costs for the 20 most common surgical procedures and 20 most common imaging procedures.

Take a case of pneumonia. N.C. consumers will now be able to go online and compare a variety of prices for that treatment. The database will tell them what Medicare pays for the treatment of pneumonia, what Medicaid pays and the average of what the five largest insurers in the state would pay the hospital.

Additionally, the database will offer up what the charge will be for a person with no insurance, and what the average price that the uninsured are able to negotiate with the hospital to pay.

That's a lot more info than is now available to N.C. consumers, though a clearer picture of what health care costs are in the state is still emerging.

This is what NC's attorney general had to say:

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who had advocated for several of the provisions included in the final transparency law,praised its passage.

“We recommend that consumers shop around for a good deal, but our health care system doesn’t make that easy to do,” Cooper said. “Giving consumers straightforward information on what medical services cost and what they owe will help them make better decisions about their health care.”

He's got that right, especially when you're talking about preventive or non-urgent care. Obviously if you're in an emergency situation the last thing you're going to think about is whether or not the hospital nearest to you is the cheapest, but when a consumer has time to think having accurate information is the most valuable tool at his disposal. 

What I hope we see in the very near future is an app on our phones that will be linked to a database of ALL medical procedures from all health systems. And while I'm dreaming I'd love to see our state have more viable health insurance options than the duopoly we currently "enjoy" in North Carolina.

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