Two articles from the Chicago Tribune examine a very real problem with CDHPs--that the transparency necessary for consumers to comparison shop simply isn't a reality. An estimated 6 million Americans use CDHPs, and that number is likely to increase in the coming years. However, as Tribune staff reporters discovered, hospitals make comparison shopping almost impossible. Healthcare is, by nature, a fragmented industry. One procedure can involve various services from hospitals, doctors and labs, each of which bill separately. This makes an up-front estimate almost impossible. Added to that is the fact that patient's level of health varies: Two patients undergoing the same procedure will be charged different prices based on their particular needs.
The complexities involved in pricing healthcare make it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to capitalize on the promises of CDHPs, critics say. "The market just isn't ready yet to deliver on the promise of these new insurance products," Larry Boress, president of the Midwest Business Group on Health, told the Tribune. At this early stage, CDHPs seem like a Catch-22. Consumers are supposed to comparison shop without even getting a chance to look at the real price tag.