Monday, November 30, 2009

Health care price information

An article in the New York Times gives us hope that tools may be available for consumers to "act like consumers"when it comes to health care.

What does this mean?

In other areas of the economy and in our day to day lives, we spend enormous amounts of time shopping around.  We travel from store to store.  We read advertisements in the newspaper.  We listen to commercials on the radio.  Many read magazines like Consumer Reports or other related magazines.

All of this is in an effort to understand the attributes of the products we are buying and to understand the prices that we are being asked to pay and how these relate to our individual and family budgets.

In health care, it may still be difficult to understand all attributes of care--particularly when it comes to quality of care and whether and how the care is supposed to help us get better.  However, the article mentioned above describes an increasing number of tools that consumers can use to obtain information about prices and how an increasing number of medical care providers are willing to discuss prices.

GIven confusing language about prices and procedures this is just a first step in the process of preparing to act more like consumers and there has been evidence in the past suggesting that consumers find it difficult to make "informed choices" about what care is and is not absolutely necessary.  However, there is hope that we may find ways to consume like consumers in health care in the future.

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