We're not quite there yet. But there is a new website that is getting close.
A small, emerging online service called MediBid is creating an actual market that puts doctors together with patients who need care.
Here's the best thing about it. Patients who use this service can cut their health care costs in half. No, that's not a misprint. Patients who obtain care through MediBid pay about half as much as BlueCross pays. Ditto for all the major employer plans as well as the other big insurance companies. Patients frequently pay even less than what government pays under Medicare.
Here's the worst thing about it. Once ObamaCare kicks in, entrepreneurial ventures like this one will probably be nipped in the bud. That's because the Obama administration doesn't believe that patients can or should be able to buy care in an open marketplace. In fact, once they get through implementing the 2,700-page bill with 159 regulatory agencies and 10,000 pages of regulations, patients are unlikely to ever see a real price for any type of care.
At least for the time being, however, a market for medical care is emerging. Here's how it works.
Patients who are willing to travel and able to pay cash, can request bids or estimates for specific medical procedures. They fill out medical questionnaires and they can upload their medical records. The patient’s identity is kept confidential until a transaction is consummated. MediBid-affiliated physicians and other medical providers respond by submitting competitive bids for the requested care.
Business at the site is growing. For example, last year the company facilitated:
•More than 50 knee replacements, at an average price of about $12,000, almost one-third of what the insurance companies typically pay and about half of what Medicare pays.
•Sixty-six colonoscopies with an average price between $500 and $800, half of what you would ordinarily expect to pay.
•Forty-five knee and shoulder arthroscopic surgeries, with average prices between $4,000 and $5,000.
•Thirty-three hernia repairs with an average price of $3,500.
MediBid facilitates the transaction, but the agreement is between doctor and patient, both of who must come to an agreement on the price and service.