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Experts push for up-front disclosure of health care costs

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Heather Robinson
Health insurance coverage helping young cancer patients do better
Health insurance coverage helping young cancer patients do better

One of the biggest issues that many consumers face when they get health care is that they do not know exactly how much it might end up costing them, even if they have health insurance. As a consequence, many experts say that people may land themselves in financial difficulty simply because they don't know what their end costs will be, and that something needs to change in the near future.

This issue may become particularly prevalent in the coming years as Americans are more likely to face a larger share of their medical bills than they ever have before, thanks to declining benefits on employer-issued health insurance plans, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. As such, many in the medical field say that now might be a good time to push for what is known in the industry as "price transparency," which as the name implies, would allow consumers to gain a better understanding of what they're actually going to end up paying for whatever care - be it preventative or emergency - they ultimately receive.

Moreover, experts say this might be important depending upon the insurance situation in which a patient finds oneself. For instance, certain insurers have the ability to negotiate more affordable prices for everything from hospital stays to check-ups, and often even doctors don't know what their patients will eventually have to pay for any treatment they receive, especially once they leave the office and have to obtain prescriptions, tests, and specialist opinions.

Why hasn't this happened yet?
Of course, when it comes to overhauling the entire way the American medical industry bills consumers, there has to be some incentive to change from the current system, the report said. With consumers being more personally empowered in terms of finding affordable care by the recent push for broader insurance coverage nationwide, it's possible that they'll be more likely to shop around when they need non-emergency care, and that could lead to potential upticks in business for providers that are more open about what they charge, and are able to keep prices relatively low.

Health insurers might also be able to apply a little more pressure to care providers in terms of urging them to provide more transparent pricing to patients, and as such could benefit both their customers and bottom lines going forward.

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