It’s not acceptable anymore to shop for healthcare insurance when you don’t know the price of what you’re buying.

In a recent survey from the Massachusetts Center for Health Information Analysis (CHIA), it shows a wide range of prices for an MRI around the state. The Pioneer Institute in Boston has published a brief, authored by Scott Haller, that compares the far-ranging difference in both cost of the procedure and the amount you pay for it.

Having this information is as important as posting the prices on a restaurant menu. If the state doesn’t make this information available, how will we know we’re making the best choices for our dollar?

Quoting the brief, “Average 'allowed amounts,' the price for a particular procedure agreed to between specific insurers and providers, ranged from $299 in Worcester County to $1,787 in Nantucket. The average amount paid by insurers went from a low of $213 in Worcester to $1,571 in Nantucket, and average consumer out-of-pocket costs varied from $60 in Worcester County to $176 in Berkshire County.

There were large price variations both between and among counties. Maximum out-of-pocket costs were $744 in Essex and Plymouth Counties, compared to $4,479 in Barnstable.

Data showing comparatively higher out-of-pocket costs in rural counties like Berkshire, Franklin, Nantucket and Hampden, which had the highest average out-of-pocket costs, suggest that high-deductible insurance plans are more common in those areas.

While Suffolk County had the fourth highest average allowed amount, its out-of-pocket average was third lowest among the 13 counties included in the brief (there is no MRI machine in Dukes County, more commonly known as Martha’s Vineyard), which suggests the prevalence of more generous insurance plans.

With both the lowest allowed amount (about $299) and out-of-pocket costs (around $60), patients in Worcester County appear to be getting the best overall deal in Massachusetts.”

All things considered, I believe making all payer claims data public would reduce overall healthcare costs.

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