Weber says that consumers are competent to make such decisions without relying on a provider directory or the imprimatur of a hospital. "Is there anything that says the Internet is any worse than a Blue Cross directory?" he asked. "Once they choose a physician, we will send them the license number, and there are a bunch of third-party sites" that patients can use to check out a doctor. If a patient is dissatisfied with a doctor after accepting a bid but before surgery, Medibid will repost the query free of charge.
Oklahoma City anesthesiologist G. Keith Smith, co-owner of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, was one of the first to sign up with Medibid, which dovetails with his "free-market" philosophy.
"We've been quoting prices for 17 years" to prospective patients, Smith said, "and posting them online for five." About 125 of the center's patients have come through Medibid, for procedures including hernia repair, gallbladder removal and knee replacement.
Although cost may be the initial lure, once prospective patients "look at our Web site and see it's a beautiful, new, 40,000-square-foot facility, they're sold," he said.
So far, no patient has had a complication serious enough to require a transfer to a hospital. But, Smith adds, "If someone pays $3,000 for a hernia [repair] and goes home and develops a wound infection that costs them another $3,000, they're still ahead." Prices vary considerably, but the cost of a hernia repair averages about $7,900 or $9,700, depending on whether it is performed conventionally or laparoscopically, according to New Choice Health, a Florida-based company with a Web site that compares hospital charges. Some hospitals charge as much as $23,000.
Jeffrey M. Gallups, founder of one of the largest ear, nose and throat practices in the Southeast, said he recently signed up with Medibid because he believes the health-care law will make consumers more cost-conscious as a result of rising deductibles.
"I'm a firm believer that non-emergency medical care will be like any other commodity," said Gallups, whose practice has 16 offices in the Atlanta area and two -- soon to be three -- surgery centers.
Fri, Aug 1 2014