Forbes takes a look at the new pricing tool provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina.
So what and where is this pricing tool? It was unveiled with relatively little fanfare last week by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Why is this disruptive? Because it’s an online tool that the general public can use to compare in-network pricing for specific procedures by provider and location.
Historically, these rates have been a closely guarded secret. They’re often so difficult to negotiate that high profile payers (say Anthem in California and Highmark in Pennsylvania) wind up in pitched battles with equally high profile providers (like Stanford Health and UPMC). When these giants can’t agree on these rates, it’s not uncommon for them to terminate existing agreements (or threaten to) so it’s always been information available to “members only.” That was until last week.
Some observers were stunned to see significant price discrepancies in the reimbursement rates for the same procedure at different locations. But that may work in the consumers favor as those at the high end of the pricing scale may begin to feel pressure to lower their prices in order to compete.
Prices convey important information, and help shape consumer decisions. When consumers can make more informed decisions, a dose of healthy competition is introduced into the market. Let’s hope to see greater pricing transparency introduced into healthcare. But the question remains, will this transparency make much difference in the government-controlled era of Obamacare?