Too often with medical services you don't find out what costs you are incurring until you get the bill. In fact, you can end up getting multiple bills from different organizations (e.g. testing labs) from a single visit to a medical provider. So it is not always clear when the final bill has arrived. Comparison shopping on price is made even more difficult since each provider offers a wide array of services and you end up paying for some services before moving on to later stages in diagnosis and treatment where more services are proposed. Into this anti-competitive environment a company named Castlight Health has been collecting price information on medical tests and procedures to provide as an information service.
This lack of transparency has contributed to huge disparities in the cost of procedures. According to Castlight Health, a startup based in San Francisco, a colonoscopy costs anywhere from $563 to $3,967 within a single zip code. EKGs can range from $27 to $143, while the price for a set of three spinal x-rays varies from as little as $38 to as high as $162.
When someone else is picking up the tab, mystery pricing is not much of a problem. But these days, even the 59.5 million Americans who get health benefits through large self-insured employers are increasingly expected to pay a percentage of the costs for their medical care.
Castlight sells this service to employers who then let their employees access it to compare costs. If you've got a high co-pay or high deductible and want to get access to comparative medical services cost information in your area then you could let your employer know this service exists.
Where we need to get to: Your medical history should reside on some cloud service that is linked to diagnostics and treatment advisory software. Test results should flow into your cloud repository and then run through diagnostics apps. When real doctors recommend tests you should be able to instantly find out your options for getting the testing done with pricing, schedule openings, and directions. So what Castlight Health is doing is a valuable piece of a much larger puzzle that I expect will come together over the next 10 to 15 years.