In elective surgical cases and in most medical cases, price transparency is the answer. Research has suggested that substantial savings are possible if consumers shop on line using price calculators such as the one available at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and the one being introduced by Harvard Pilgrim. Such on line price calculators are currently most useful in employer based health plans where patients are incented in various ways, often financially, if they pick low cost, high quality physicians and hospitals. Many insurers and employers are pushing for the use of such calculators and they are becoming more prevalent especially in states where legislation is clearing away obstacles to such information sharing.
It would not be politically feasible in my opinion to force physicians to accept all insurance types. We must use price transparency and financial incentives for patients to drive health care business to the most cost effective providers.
Bill Bithoney, MD