In a new kind of marketplace, patients browse for health care deals

MediBid allows physicians to bid on patient procedures

The Associated Press' Tom Murphy last week examined the increasing popularity of online marketplaces where physicians can bid on procedures and patients can choose the best offer.

MediBid: An online marketplace for patients

One such online marketplace is MediBid, which launched in 2010 and has helped connect about 1,800 patients with physicians.

Patients register with the site and pay either $25 per request or $4.95 a month for a year to post their medical needs and solicit bids. Meanwhile, providers pay a $250 annual fee that allows them to search patient requests and place bids.

MediBid COO Tess St. Clair says the site helps patients weigh their health care options. "The hardest thing for an American to do is ask the question, 'How much will this cost?' and get an answer," St. Clair says.

Meanwhile, physicians who use MediBid, such as Surgery Center of Oklahoma's Keith Smith, say the service helped his physician-owned facility find new patients. Smith says his organization can offer lower rates through the marketplace because it cuts out insurers and does not have to pay facility fees like hospitals do.

Smith also argues that the model encourages higher quality. "If we started cutting corners and worrying about our pocketbook before doing the right thing, we're going to lose our business," he says.

Although patients who shop for health care deals represent only a small fraction of patients, experts expect to see the trend grow as high-deductible plans become increasingly popular.

With bundled-pay deals, employers and insurers shop for better deals

Employers also are shopping for good health care deals for their workers, according to the AP.

A closer look at Walmart
The deal for cardiac and transplant care
The deal for orthopedic care

For example, Walmart—the largest, private U.S. employer, with 1.1 million employees and dependents on its health coverage plan—runs an optional Centers of Excellence program that sends employees to one of six health systems for certain heart, spine, and transplant surgeries at no cost to the patient. The deal can save employees between $5,000 and $10,000 in out-of-pocket costs, depending on their coverage, according to Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove.

Walmart is also part of a national, first-of-its-kind bundled pay deal in which employees are sent to four hospital systems for knee and hip replacement surgeries at no cost to the patient.

Meanwhile, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield in Alaska covers expenses for some of its members to fly to Seattle for some procedures. For example, a knee surgery that costs $27,100 in Alaska can be performed for just $13,000 in Seattle, according to a Premera spokesperson (Murphy, AP/ABC News, 10/26).

Are you ready to compete in the new marketplace?

Walmart is advancing toward the health care market, and while we don’t know how far Walmart will go, the retailer could expand enough to disrupt your primary care referral chains, launch a nationwide health plan, or more.

Are you ready to compete in a shifting health care marketplace? Lisa Bielamowicz explains what you need to know.

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