What price disclosures deliver is transparency

Health care reform is coming from both directions. From the left, a demand that basic care be a patient's right, reserving emergency care for emergencies. From the right, a demand that consumers be given more information and more choices. Both sides are correct

Transparency in medical pricing, from the Piper ReportA new think tank study dismisses a proposal from Iowa Republican Charles Grassley to require disclosure of medical device pricing. (Picture from the PiperReport.)

The hit piece was commissioned by AdvaMed, the device industry trade group, and claimed that there is little market competition, that search costs are high, and so the plan just wouldn't work.

Maybe not. Not at first. But the key to the plan is in the bill's title. It's the Transparency in Medical Device Pricing Act. I emphasized this key point so the study's authors can read it without their spectacles.

Transparency is abhorrent to the entire medical industry, and folks across the political spectrum are growing weary of it.

While driving back from HIMSS yesterday, for instance, I listened to a right-wing bloviator discussing with Clark Howard the need for consumer power to cut health care costs.

Howard pointed out to said bloviator that medicine is the one field where you never know the price, never ask the price, and have no control over the price.

This is one point on which conservatives are absolutely correct. Transparency is needed. People need to be given the prices for medical services they buy. And they need to be offered quality measures as well.

While there are medical procedures and circumstances where price is no object, there are also many where price should be a consideration. Consider the cost of vaccines, of routine visits, or of simple visits which result in a prescription for antibiotics.

Transparency, of course, must be a two-way street. Vendors need to tell us what they're charging, at both the wholesale and retail level. We need to be more transparent in giving new providers the information they need to serve us well.

In the case of that antibiotic example, data from my Personal Health Record is vital in getting the right prescription. I need to have the power to give that information to the person who needs it. I need to have that information from my doctor as well.

Health care reform is coming from both directions. From the left, a demand that basic care be a patient's right, reserving emergency care for emergencies. From the right, a demand that consumers be given more information and more choices.

Both sides are correct, and knee jerk criticism from industry groups by AdvaMed won't stop reform.

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