Insurer Aetna is expected to publish the prices it has negotiated with doctors in Cincinnati on its website in a trial of a possible nationwide program. The move makes Aetna the first major insurer to make its prices public, a major change in an industry where exact pricing information has been almost impossible for consumers to come by. If adopted by other insurers, experts say, the move could put pressure on doctors to lower their prices. Aetna will publish price schedules for about 600 common procedures on its website. Not everybody is happy about the plan, however, with some doctors complaining that the information is likely to be deceptive and lead many patients to make decisions on the basis of price alone.
Meanwhile, Aetna is also under the spotlight for the way it has positioned itself to take advantage of the Medicare Part D benefit. TheStreet.com reports that Aetna, UnitedHealth and Pacificare -- recently acquired by UnitedHealth -- appear to be in dominant positions in the early going.