There was a thought-provoking article by David Goldhill in the September 2009 Atlantic Magazine with his suggestions about how to fix the US health care system. One of his key suggestions was to provide price or cost transparency to consumers of health care services. He noted that, crazily, consumers don't know how much stuff costs, and that some hospitals and medical offices refuse even to provide such information ahead of time.
Interestingly, I spoke to a friend last week who mentioned that his wife is a physician (working at a hospital) and, tellingly, even she doesn't know the price or cost of the treatments she recommends and delivers.
Although obvious the moment I heard it, given this crazy health care system, this is shocking. It seems that medical school never touched on these issues, and certainly her employer sees no need to share such information with the physicians. Hmmm...
Whether or not your insurance will pay your medical bills, perhaps we should all start asking our physicians about costs and prices in advance. Just as Goldhill suggested, a stronger cost consciousness for both providers and patients will itself drive new patterns of thinking, and maybe even behavior, too.