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Partnership gives Angie's List members medical price info

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Angie’s List has partnered with Tennessee-based Healthcare Blue Book to give consumers price information before they receive medical care.

The Indianapolis-based consumer review and rating service started making the price information available to members on its website Wednesday.

The same information already is available directly from Healthcare Blue Book, a website launched last year that provides the average price health care providers charge for services ranging from ordinary pediatrician visits to complicated surgeries to expensive diagnostic imaging tests.

Healthcare Blue Book encourages consumers to negotiate upfront with health care providers, even generating a contract for them to sign agreeing to the fair price Healthcare Blue Book’s database finds for the doctor’s local area.

“The Healthcare Blue Book takes the mystery out of health care pricing,” Dr. Jeffrey Rice, CEO and founder of the Healthcare Blue Book, said in a statement. “To get fair prices, patients must look up the accepted, average local prices and then make sure their provider agrees to that price before they get care.”

Angie’s List has been making available consumer-generated reports and ratings on health care providers since the spring of 2008.

This year, the company surveyed more than 1,000 of its subscribers about price information for medical services. Only 25 percent of respondents said they ask about price before agreeing to treatment. But 85 percent said health care providers should publish their prices and, if they did, 61 percent said they would shop around.
 
“So many of us overpay for health care for two reasons: Medical billing is too complicated to figure out and we’re so used to not having any control over price that we don’t even ask about it,” Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, said in a statement. “But you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars with just a little bit of effort and still get high-quality care.”

Doctors and hospitals will often give out “billed charges” when consumers ask, but these prices are typically just a starting for negotiations with health insurance companies, and real prices come out to be significantly less.

Those negotiated prices, however, are rarely if ever made publicly available.

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  • Necessary
    Access to true cost information is vital to allowing customers to make rational health care decisions. The problem is that most people don't have any incentive to care, such as if they owe a standard co-pay or similar amount.

    Somehow we need to give consumers an incentive to be price sensitive. This is the key to starting to collar health care cost increases. Why not offer a partial rebate of premiums for helping manage costs?

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