Michigan Offers Health Care Price-Shopping Online

Published March 1, 2008

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) has launched a free Web site enabling consumers to review charge, payment, and quality information about Michigan hospitals.

MI Hospital Inform (MIHI) is a joint initiative of MHA and its 146 nonprofit community hospitals.

Experts say the new program will help improve hospital care quality and efficiency by increasing transparency and holding hospitals accountable to consumers.

Diana Ernst, a health care policy fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, said the MIHI Web site “is an encouraging upshot of the consumer-driven health care reform effort, which has the fundamental objective of increasing patient ownership of health care dollars, and increasing patient choice of health care plans and services.

“Improved price transparency and information about the quality of services from providers are crucial components in this effort,” Ernst added.

Accountable to Patients

The Web site will make charge and payment information available for the 50 most frequent inpatient and 50 most frequent outpatient medical procedures, including clinical diagnoses and treatments, that are monitored and covered by Medicare.

The site will provide specific information such as the average charge, average payment, average length of stay for inpatient procedures, and total number of patients who were treated at Michigan hospitals for each of the listed medical procedures.

In Michigan, providers are demonstrating more accountability to patients, Ernst says. As a result of the increase in information and choices, patients are becoming less dependent on government and third-party payers.

Arresting Health Care Inflation

Greg Blankenship, executive director of the Illinois Policy Institute, a think tank based in Springfield, noted, “The Michigan Health and Hospital Association is taking a good first step that promises to have a positive impact in the future.

“More transparent pricing will eventually bring more price competition to health care, and that means eventually we’ll see a good deal of health care inflation arrested,” Blankenship said.

According to a statement on the MI Hospital Inform Web site, MHA is committed to achieving even greater transparency in health care and will continue to adjust the program to better address consumers’ questions and concerns.

Government Intervention Unnecessary

“There are states that are mandating price transparency, but here we see it developing without government intervention,” said Blankenship. “That sets a positive example we can use to promote price transparency in other states.”

According to Ernst, the consumer-driven health care movement, though still young, is having a positive influence everywhere. Patients all over America are exercising more prudence about health care overuse, closely observing their treatment procedures, demanding more information and transparent prices, and experiencing a decreasing growth rate in health care costs, she says.

“The new hospital Web site in Michigan is a response to this independent behavior on the part of patients, and surely the beginning of a positive new trend in health care,” Ernst added.

Dr. Sanjit Bagchi ([email protected]) writes from India.

For more information …

MI Hospital Inform: http://www.MIHospitalInform.org