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Jul
14
2006

Guest column
Joel Ario, administrator of the state’s Insurance Division
Cory Streisinger, director of the Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services

The authors have submitted this Op-Ed (a version of which originally appeared in the
Oregonian)
for discussion on this blog.

You're about to have a baby and since your employer switched to a high-deductible health plan, you care about price a lot more than you used to. You're a savvy shopper, adept at using the Web to find the best deal. So you quickly discover www.orpricepoint.org, an Oregon hospital association Web site that tells you the statewide median charge for an "uncomplicated vaginal delivery" is $5,024. More clicking and you learn hospital charges are about 10 percent higher in the Portland area and vary by as much as 40 percent among local hospitals. You're disappointed the site doesn't rate the quality of services. You figure delivering a baby isn't all that complicated, so you're willing to decide based on price. Then things get really frustrating. You learn that the $5,024 is figured on so-called "billed charges" that nobody really pays, just like nobody pays a new car's sticker price, and that this amount might not include other charges, like the anesthesiologist's bill. Your insurer has negotiated a discounted rate, but it only applies to one local hospital. Even worse, the amount is a closely guarded secret - your hospital and insurer won't tell you what it is.

Welcome to the world of so-called "consumer-driven health care" where the rosy rhetoric is well ahead of the reality. You can't find out how much your hospital stay will cost you, but you know it will be expensive. You start to wonder just who can control costs like the multi-million-dollar hospital expansion projects busting out all over the Portland area.

Continue reading Cost Transparency and Affordable Health Care

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