The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

May 6, 2014

Healthcare task force: Reveal patient costs

DANVILLE — A national healthcare task force, which included members of Geisinger leadership, has made a series of recommendations to increase price transparency in the healthcare industry.

One of the ultimate questions from patients is how much out of pocket will they have to pay, said Kevin Brennan, Chief Financial Officer of Geisinger Health System. They’re not as concerned with how much the insurer will pay, how much Geisinger will pay, “what they care about is ‘what is my deductible?’” he said.

Brennan was one of several members appointed to the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s Price Transparency Task Force. The group’s April report presented principles and recommendations for price transparency within healthcare, highlighting ways hospitals, physicians, and health plans can share reliable information with consumers.

That lack of transparency has been “the ultimate challenge to a potential consumer who views healthcare as being financially complicated,” Brennan said.

Geisinger has been providing such services since 2006, through its MyEstimate program. The transparency report recommended a set of changes that are similar to MyEstimate features, such as giving prospective patients access to a web-based portal with certain info unique to them and will provide an estimate based on their insurance coverage which identifies how much the patient will have to pay, Brennan said.

A service like MyEstimate is unusual for a health system to provide to patients, Brennan said. The Healthcare Financial Management Association actually lists Geisinger as one of the best examples of transparency practices in the country, which is probably why he was asked to serve on the task force, Brennan said.

Among the statements made by the report are that health plans are in the best position to help members find out the total estimated price of a service; hospitals should serve as a price information resource for uninsured people; consumers should receive price information in an easy-to-understand format, and employers can play a role in transparency by encouraging employers to be involved in their healthcare decisions.

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