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How Transparent is the Healthcare Industry in the United States?

, How Transparent is the Healthcare Industry in the United States?

Transparency in the healthcare industry refers the cost of healthcare services, as well as how accessible the price and location information of healthcare services are to patients. Historically in the United States, patients often had to conduct detailed searches to obtain accurate price information. Understandably this was a problem, given that time-sensitive issues related to personal health do not wait for investigative reports. Often, patients were at the mercy of healthcare providers when it came to cost, having little to no idea how much their specific healthcare services, e.g., prescription drugs or advanced surgery, cost, even in their immediate locality. Patients were often at a loss to quickly locate affordable care.

In recent years transparency in the healthcare industry is noticeably increasing. Many private health insurance companies now provide complete pricing information for baseline healthcare services so that their subscribers may get an approximation of how they are being compensated. Increased availability of pricing information has made the market for both healthcare providers and private health insurance companies more competitive by providing them with incentives to keep healthcare services affordable. Unfortunately, this has not curbed overall healthcare spending as there are still few regulations in place to address large health insurance companies’ monopoly on local service pricing. That is, if healthcare providers across a municipality agree to coordinate price increases, consumers have little recourse in the matter if they wish to continue seeing local physicians. This has led to an increase in advocates for a single-payer or universal coverage healthcare delivery system in recent years, under which all citizens would have health insurance coverage financed by a pool of taxpayer revenue.

Adding to the new competitive framework is the Affordable Care Act of 2010, perhaps most well-known for mandating that all employers with 50 or more full-time employees must provide health insurance coverage for their full-time staff. The Affordable Care Act also addresses transparency in the healthcare industry by establishing the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), an online health insurance marketplace that allows small business owners to compare health insurance options in their area and find the best coverage for their specific situation. Benefits to the consumer include: finding cheaper, closer options for healthcare services. What many may not realize, though, is that transparency also benefits healthcare providers by allowing patients to seek only the options and services they need (and at a location close by), rather than utilize other healthcare services from several different physicians.

What is your opinion about the transparency in health care industry?

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