"This is an extension of the whole concept of consumerism," said Dr. Michael Mesoras, Aetna's medical director for patient management in the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Pittsburgh.
"With this, there's the potential that patients could say, 'Well, all these guys are good, I'm going to see which one is less expensive,' " said Dr. Mesoras
.The theory is that when people are spending their own money, they will be more judicious in their health care purchases.
In addition to Pittsburgh, Aetna
is expanding its program from Cincinnati to seven other markets, although consumers in some of those markets also will receive information about the clinical quality and efficiency of doctors.
In the Cincinnati area, where the company has about 200,000 members, Aetna
found that about 26,000 consumers used its Web site to access price information about physician services at a rate of between 600 to 1,000 visits per month.It's unclear if the information changed consumer behavior, Dr. Mesoras
But Dr. Mesoras
, the Aetna official, said his
company had been able to use transparency in its favor during negotiations.In a few cases, doctors demanding high rates for certain procedures have backed down after learning that their relative reimbursements will be visible on the Aetna Web site.
"What we don't have in medicine is true competition from a price perspective," he