Priceline for Healthcare Services?

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Here is a link to a story from one of my favorite reporters, Rebecca Plevin from KPCC radio in California. She uncovered a startup company that tries to help people shop for healthcare services, by letting them name their price and seeing if any healthcare providers are game:

Shopping for things like hotel reservations is pretty easy these days.
There are a lot of websites that allow you to compare options by price and other factors. Some sites – like Priceline – even let you do the online version of haggling: You name the price you’re willing to pay and the site matches you with a hotel willing to accept your bid.
Some entrepreneurs are now trying to adapt this approach to the health care field, where it’s been notoriously difficult to shop around. It’s a development that’s being welcomed – with some caution – by people who advocate for transparency in the health care marketplace.
“This approach is the type of thing that the health care market needs,” says Dr. Peter Ubel, a professor at Duke University. “With more and more people in the U.S. paying more and more out of pocket for their health care, they need to be more like regular consumers, where they’re looking around for price and quality.”
Overall, these new sites that bill themselves as being like Priceline for health care “give consumers more power,” Ubel says. But, he and others warn, with more power comes more responsibility on the part of the consumer.
A win-win?
Take the Los Angeles-based start-up company ZendyHealth.
The site allows you to choose a procedure from a list of medical services, like CT or MRI scans. It will tell you the average price for that procedure. You can then suggest the price that you’re willing to pay, and providers can choose whether to accept the bid. If you undergo the procedure, you can either pay in cash or use funds from your health savings account, if you have a high-deductible health plan.

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