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What's the Price on That MRI? Patients and the Price of Health Care


A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak as a patient about 'consumers and cost information' while being videotaped for use in the annual meeting of the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I admire the aims of this initiative "to lift the overall quality of health care in targeted communities, reduce racial and ethnic disparities and provide models for national reform" and I think it has taught us some valuable lessons about what it takes to make even slight course corrections in the trajectory of the huge aircraft carrier that is health care.

Plus, I have listened to hundreds of people talk about their experiences with the rising price of health care: who thinks about it when and why, what individuals do to cut back on the expense, where they have been successful and where not. I've heard lots of stories, most of them involving considerable frustration. And I now find myself frequently trying to dig up information about the price of various tests to monitor for a recurrence of my own previous cancers.

Many of us are worried about the price of our health care, from how much we pay for our health plan to how much we are charged for a flu vaccine. The combination of the bad economy and the big increases in the amount we pay in insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles and for direct services has caught our attention.  And as the number of uninsured and underinsured people facing sizable out-of-pocket expenses grows, more of us find ourselves looking for price information to help decide whether we can afford to consult our doctor or pay for this test or that treatment.  Or, if we must have the test or treatment, where we can find lower-priced options.

So, I happily agreed to talk to the video camera.  And talk I did.  I answered a series of probing questions over the course of about 90 minutes about my experiences and what I have heard from others about trying to find out and make use of price information.

You can see the sweetened, condensed version of that interview here, where I am joined by Steven Weinberger of the American College of Physicians and Ginny Proestakes of GE, each talking about their views on price transparency. Bear with the long introduction it raises some provocative questions.

The interview also prompted me to write about what the high price of health care looks like from my own individual perspective here it is, in case you missed it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

More Blog Posts by Jessie Gruman

author bio

Jessie C. Gruman, PhD, was founder and president of the Center for Advancing Health from 1992 until her death in July 2014. Her experiences as a patient — having been diagnosed with five life-threatening illnesses — informed her perspective as an author, advocate and lead contributor to the Prepared Patient Blog. Her book, AfterShock, helps patients and caregivers navigate their way through the health care system following a serious or life-threatening diagnosis. The free app, AfterShock: Facing a Serious Diagnosis, offers a pocket guide based on the book. | More about Jessie Gruman

Tags for this article:
Health Care Cost   Pay for your Health Care   Inside Healthcare   Health Insurance   Jessie Gruman  

Comments on this post
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dirk says
November 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM

is the longer recording/interview available?
hope your giving thanks went well.

admin-staff says
December 1, 2011 at 1:08 PM

The full video produced by RWJF on behalf of the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative can be viewed here: