Consumers can secure a price for a procedure--until it changes

Just because patients shop around for a medical procedure and secure its price in advance does not mean healthcare organizations won't charge them more, Kaiser Health News has reported.

That was the lesson learned by Douglas White, a Boston-area physical therapist by training who holds a doctorate degree. When he needed an MRI, he shopped around and secured the price of $473.53 at Coolidge Corner Imaging. He intended to keep the expenses low since he was responsible for a $2,000 deductible under his health plan.

But he ultimately was charged $1,273.02 because Coolidge Corner Imaging is owned by Brigham and Women's Hospital, which sent White his bill.

White's insurer, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, picked up the entire tab after it conceded White received an incorrect quote for the service.

"I was shocked. If I get tripped up, the average consumer doesn't have the slightest chance of effectively managing their health expenses," White told Kaiser Health News.

Price transparency is in demand by consumers, but most states do not deliver it, with the vast majority earning failing grades in that area. And consumers also very rarely seek out prices on their own, with Human Resource Executive reporting that the proportion is far below 10 percent.

The lack of price transparency in healthcare puts the system at risk of "price asymmetry" that drives up prices for consumers due to a lack of actionable information.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article 
- check out the Human Resource Executive article