Docs may face legal obligation to disclose care costs

High-deductible health plans may increase patient reliance on cost info
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The days of physicians not mixing discussions about money with medicine are decidedly over. Up to half of insured employees are expected to be enrolled in higher deductible health plans within the next 18 months, Reuters reported.

What's more, the article goes as far as to say that failure to disclose health costs to patients during the informed-consent process could put doctors at legal risk.

According to Haavi Morreim, a lawyer and professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee, doctors may be liable for a breach of fiduciary duty if their care recommendations turn out to be too aligned with their own financial interest.

With healthcare price transparency slowly catching on, patients have access to a growing number of tools for comparing the costs of care in various settings. As patients have more financial "skin in the game," they will likely use and rely more heavily on resources, such as Healthcarebluebook.com, Reuters noted.

Although these trends have led the likes of Consumer Reports to begin dipping a toe in the healthcare waters, insurers looking to keep costs down are also increasingly providing cost-comparison tools to employers to help steer their employees toward cost-efficient care.

Some physicians are even leading this push toward greater health transparency. For example, Leslie Ramirez, a primary care and internal medicine doctor in Chicago, recently told MedCity News that it's "crazy" for doctors to assume patients will "pay any price" for healthcare. In explaining her rationale for creating Leslie's List, a price-transparency website she's funded since 2009, Ramirez said, "It was so disheartening to hear that the plans that I had made for them [patients] weren't being followed because they couldn't afford the things that I was telling them to do."

The site, which serves the Chicago and Dallas areas, lists procedures and medications from top to bottom according to how much they cost, with the least expensive coming up first. Ramirez said she hopes the site will not only share cost information with patients but also help drive prices down.

To learn more:
- read the article from MedCity News
- see the story from Reuters

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