Healthcare Blue Book, a new for-profit website, allows prospective patients to find “fair prices” on surgery, hospital stays, doctor visits, and medical procedures. The audience here is people who either don’t have insurance, have a high deductible, or are considering medical treatments that their insurer won’t cover.
It works like this: type in a medical matter and the site will return standard prices based on zip code.
As a sample search, I tried “nasal endoscopy,” a procedure that my New York doctor recently billed about $400 for. According to the Blue Book, the standard cost for this in my area is $386. So my doctor’s price is about right. If my doctor charged $800, however, I could print out the estimate on the Blue Book site and use it to haggle with my doctor.
I imagine this site can be helpful in rooting out price gougers or helping people decide whether they can afford liposuction. But that strikes me as its only good use. Do you really want to choose a surgeon or hospital based on price? Healthcare is such a complex matter that the typical consumer isn’t equipped to understand the difference between methods and procedures, between what’s necessary and not.
If this site takes off, it’ll be one more sign of how much we’re screwed.