During this recent insurance enrollment, I made a terrible mistake. I asked my health insurance for the prices of common procedures performed at different hospitals. My insurance company refused to tell me. It was one of the most repetitive frustrating conversations of my life.
I needed to know the prices so that I could select the hospital network that offered the best price, and because I had to select a dollar amount for my flex spending account. However, the insurance company insisted that the prices were top secret. Therefore, I was trapped in the absurd position of selecting a hospital network without any regard to price.
The law requires that I buy health insurance but the law does not protect me sufficiently to require insurance companies to provide me with basic prices. It is this lack of transparency that is causing escalating health care costs. Imagine going to a store, and being forced buy one of two similar products, and then being denied the opportunity to know either of the prices. Further, imagine having to select a dollar amount prior to purchasing the product without access to the price tag. No one would buy a car or a house without consideration of the price. Why is it OK to buy health care this way?
There is a simple solution. A law should guarantee consumers a good-faith estimated price of common hospital procedures by their insurance company so that they can shop around and get the best price. This should result in lower costs for everyone, including insurance companies.