Just saw this on the news (thank you, Katie Couric): HealthGrades is a website giving consumers unprecedented access to health procedure cost and hospital information.
The site’s most interesting feature, a medical cost calculation report, runs $7.95 a pop. Hospital ratings and quality ratings by procedure are free. HealthGrades sells a list of filtered physician recommendations for $9.95, though they will give you one name for free.
Other services include nursing home research and looking up a particular doctor’s history.
HealthGrades gets its info based on Medicare Provider Analysis and Review files, under license from the U.S. Department of Health.
Potentially, the cost calculator could lead to a downward effect on procedures prices by increasing competition. Actual price matching, however, may be out of the question. The newscast showed one Denver woman trying to get her operation’s cost reduced as it was $1600 higher than the regional average. The hospital refused. The woman paid the higher amount because her insurance made her use this particular hospital. CBS seemed to position this as a weakness on the part of HealthGrade, but it’s really just market forces at their purest. If the consumer can’t actually choose provider based on cost, then their bargaining power is minimal. — BEN POPKEN
HealthGrades [Official Site]