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Another Voice: Cost is only one of the issues in delivering quality health care

By Anthony J. Billittier IV

President Trump recently signed an executive order on hospital and insurer price transparency in an effort to ensure patients have access to accurate, real-time information about costs, so they can make informed decisions about their health care.

This order directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal departments to establish rules requiring hospitals and insurers to release information based on privately negotiated rates. Providers would also need to furnish their patients with estimates of out-of-pocket costs in advance of treatment.

We share the goal of increasing transparency to enable consumers to make better, more informed decisions, but hope the ultimate reporting will be all-encompassing, and not just price alone. Pricing information is most helpful when tied to other important factors, such as quality outcomes, an individual’s specific circumstances, such as benefits, deductibles and copays, and other considerations. Our goal at Independent Health is to ensure the best value, which is the best quality for the best cost. The cheapest care may or may not be the best care.

Requiring price disclosure alone for thousands of medical items, services, and procedures may also perpetuate the failed fee-for-service health care system, a sure formula for higher costs and worse care for everyone.

Independent Health is committed to providing information, options and the tools our members and employers need to make the best decisions about their health and coverage. We have begun providing relevant price information to our members for “shoppable services” such as prescriptions and diagnostic services, as well as “cost of care” reports to our provider partners.

Collaborating with primary care physicians and specialists on cost and quality transparency helps providers – and patients – make better, more informed, decisions.

To help members better understand health care costs, we provide resources on our website to illustrate they have a choice when deciding where to receive some services.

Our Brook Health Companion helps those with diabetes and/or hypertension better understand and control their disease. The app provides general health users with medication support, and recommendations for exercise and diet. And our free digital nutrition platform, Zipongo®, helps members select, purchase, and prepare healthy foods.

This executive order is a step in the right direction. We will continue to work with regulatory agencies and providers to increase price transparency and take other necessary actions with the goal of improving the quality and value of health care.

Anthony Billittier IV, M.D., is executive vice president and chief medical officer of Independent Health. He is a former Erie County health commissioner.

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