Great back-and-forth dialogue in the comments section of our blog last week on the delay in the Quality and Cost Council’s website. At issue is the planned public posting of hospital cost data. The discussion is between Paul Levy, President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Charlie Baker, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. These are the two Boston health care CEOs with their own blogs (Paul’s here, and Charlie’s here); we’re happy to provide a neutral forum for their exchange.
Of course, we’re not so neutral in this discussion. Paul’s worried about accuracy and validity. Charlie’s view is let’s get this started, and make improvements along the way. Our concern, which we wrote about two days earlier (with two interesting comments added), is whether this is really worth it. Our point, that price transparency may not be too useful, and could lead to price increases, was picked up by this week’s lead Modern Healthcare article (link, registration required).
On the face of it, healthcare’s newest grail—pricing transparency—seems like a noble mission, but under the microscope all sorts of pesky problems begin to come into focus, caused in large part by healthcare’s notoriously inscrutable pricing system. And although it seems to be a no-brainer as a necessary way for engaging patients into making informed healthcare decisions, it may not be the panacea for consumerism that it is made out to be.
Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, says he has been trying to convince policymakers of that for some time.
“The potential of price transparency is being oversold,” Ginsburg says. “Its potential to make a difference in the near term in consumers’ decisions is fairly limited, and by the way, if it’s done in a clumsy fashion, it could even raise prices.”
Thanks Paul and Charlie for the discussion, and keep on blogging on.