In Part 2, we met Dr Campinha-Bacote, the man behind Aetna’s new drive toward price transparency. The good doctor has more to say on this subject:
One of the concerns that folks have about this idea is that providers, knowing that their pricing information is now in the public domain, may engage in “upcharging;” that is, unbundling covered services in order to maximize income. For example, an expectant couple trying to determine the price of Labor and Delivery may not factor in services like anesthesia vs going for natural birth.
Dr Campinha-Bacote explained that the rates available on the website include only those procedures that the doctor provides in his office. As the transparency phenomenon expands, then the other pieces will come into play. The idea, at least for now, is to keep things as simple as possible.
But posting insured charges for covered services isn’t the only way that transparency is creeping into the health care marketplace. In California, for example, Burlingame-based QwikHealth operates a chain of walk-in health care facilities. Located in places as unlikely as a suburban strip-mall, these are not the typical “doc-in-a-box” or urgent care center to which we’ve become accustomed. Rather, they are as much coffee shop as medical center: prices for various services and procedures are prominently displayed above the reception desk, and there are even “packages” of related health care services available for one’s convenience.
Oh, and they don’t take your insurance.
In fact, they don’t take any insurance: it’s strictly cash on the barrelhead. That helps cut down both overhead and wait time for payment, and keeps things simple, as well.
The company’s founder, David Mandelkern, looked at the millions of uninsured folks clamoring for medical attention, and saw a business opportunity. In addition to serving as a primary care provider for these folks, the convenience of a “drop in” medical service is appealing to insured people who need (or just want) quick service.
Is this the future of healthcare? It’s certainly the ultimate in transparency. One potential area of concern, however, is quality of care. Typically, network providers are subject to multiple layers of quality control, which seem to be absent in this model. On the other hand, one gets what one pays for.
Mr Mandelkern told me that “(w)e may be cutting costs for our customers, but one area that we absolutely do not cut corners on is our quality of care.” He added that QwikHealth does “have quality assurance programs in place internally to monitor [their] performance, and [they] do a 100% customer satisfaction follow-up with each of [their] customers.” Apparently, his company has seen a steady growth in repeat customer traffic, which would seem to confirm a high level of customer satisfaction.
Next week, we’ll take a look at a how insurance carriers stack up when it comes to paying the bills.
Henry Stern, LUTCF is an independent insurance agent in Dayton, OH. A licensed Continuing Education instructor for Ohio and Kentucky, he has well over 20 years of experience in “the biz.” He blogs every day (or so it seems) at InsureBlog.