Who is likely to negotiate the lowest fee with a doctor, hospital or some other health care provider? The federal government? A large employer? An insurance company? Or, a patient spending her own money? Strange as it may seem, the answer is often the patient. One of the most persistent myths on […]
Canadians coming to the United States (and paying a cash price upfront) were paying almost half as much as US employers were paying and even less than the typical payment by Medicare. Think about that. These patients not only lacked a big bureaucracy to bargain on their behalf; they were foreigners.
The other factor is third party payment. After the deductibles and copayments are exhausted (which is almost immediately in the case of a knee replacement) the only payer is the third party. The incentive of the hospital is not to lower charges, but to raise them. In fact hospitals typically try to maximize against third-party payment formulas and they have sophisticated computer programs to help them do it.
An individual patient, paying with his own money and willing to travel to another city for care, is a different kind of buyer. If the hospital wants his patronage, it has strong incentives to compete on price.
This very large insurance company, representing tens of thousands of people and their very large employer (the state of California), achieved a remarkable reduction in costs by doing nothing more than sending patients into the hospital marketplace with the knowledge that the money they had to spend totaled no more than $30,000.
Oh, I neglected to mention there is one class of customer that gets knee replacements for as little as one-fifth of what Medicare pays: the family dog. This is for a procedure that involves the same technology and requires the same basic surgical skills as knee replacements for humans.
Source: Free The Patient – Forbes