Knowing what medical procedures cost important to customers

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When I worked for the Citizens League, we did this work (Citizens Solutions) around health care reform and convened hundreds of Minnesotans to talk about it. One of the themes that kept coming up was that people just don’t know how much things are (and I think that when you have health insurance, you might learn the overall cost, but don’t know how much each item costs either. And when paying out of pocket, you might also not know costs of individual components of a medical procedure). Here are two relevant findings also from previous work:

  • Medical is a Supplier-Driven Market – The Citizens League found that the market for medical care is “supplier-driven,” meaning that the balance between suppliers and consumers is tipped in favor of medical suppliers, which can result in more use of medical services and higher cost, whether or not quality is improved.
  • Information is Not Sufficient for a Functioning Market – The Citizens League concluded that information regarding medical facilities and services is not sufficient for a functioning market or an effective regulatory approach. Consumers aren’t informed enough to get good value out of the system when it comes to medical facilities and services, and suppliers compete to offer high-reimbursement services.

Minnesota Public Radio has this great story about just that and what some places are doing to make sure people know how much procedures do–surprisingly there is a lot of politics involved in this.

Another theme from Citizens Solutions too was that Minnesotans want more affordable care, which is related to this transperancy issue about what things cost–more information, more likely people will follow more affordable places. Here are some ideas from Minnesotans about making health care more affordable:

Citizen Solutions participants were largely aligned in their suggested priorities for addressing the high costs that often bar access to quality health care. For these Minnesotans, the areas for reducing health care costs (in priority order) are:

  • Administrative Costs. Slightly more than half of Citizen Solutions participants identified this as the top cost-saving measure.
  • Preventable Conditions. These citizens believe that individuals are responsible for making smart diet and exercise choices, but the health care system also has a critical role to play in supporting preventative care and encouraging wellness visits. 
  • Uncoordinated Care. Nearly half of all participants also identified coordination as an essential strategy to reduce health care costs and improve the overall health care experience.

Glad to see Citizens League not shy away from what Minnesotans want to see around health care and glad to finally see some reporting on this. I’ll try to find that story on MPR.

Here’s the report by Citizens League (with Bush Foundation).