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Price Transparency Is Slowly Transforming the Cost of a Visit to the Doctor’s Office

At least that’s the hope. Colorado just became one of roughly a dozen states to go live with a database that shows the pricing of various procedures based on both geography and the facility where it’s being performed.

With the caveat — at least in its early stages — that the facilities are listed anonymously. This poses some obvious drawbacks for consumers, but it does allow folks seeking out information on the price of MRI imaging of the knee, for example, to get a range of what different places are charging.

Right now, prices are all over the board, depending on your insurance carrier, if you’re paying out-of-pocket, where you’re getting the procedure done, etc. Oftentimes facilities can’t even tell you a price until after the procedure is complete, which proves to be extremely frustrating for consumers.

So with an MRI on your knee in Colorado, the Colorado All Payer Claims Database can at least tell you that prices in 2011 ranged from $297 to $1,261. That, of course, is a significant discrepancy.

Currently, there aren’t a whole lot of procedures on the database, so its usefulness is limited. But the expectation is that more and more procedures will be added and that facilities will eventually be named. Apparently Phil Kalin, president of the nonprofit Center for Improving Value in Health Care that runs the database, explained that they want to give providers a chance to “vet and analyze the data” before naming names sometime next fall.

There are some other things included on the database, including total cost of care information, ER claims, hospital admissions, provider density, and high-cost imaging. These might not necessarily be as intriguing or valuable to everyday procedure seekers, but the idea is to bring down the cost of healthcare in the state and tracking these numbers is intended to help make that happen.

It will still be a little while before people can plug in a procedure and search on it to find out where the best value is, but it’s definitely a healthy step in the right direction.

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