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Deductibles Are Soaring: Should Providers Work With Patients to Price Compare?

An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine argues that physicians must begin learning to discuss the cost of care with patients, especially as more patients are choosing high-deductible insurance plans.

Article authors contend physicians should share costs like they do side effects of treatment, especially as the price of healthcare has risen so quickly over the past half-century. However, the authors also acknowledge that it's current difficult for many physicians to know the actual cost of out-of-pocket expenses for all their patients.

"Discussing out-of-pocket costs enables patients to choose lower-cost treatments when there are viable alternatives. Patients experience unnecessary financial distress when physicians do not inform them of alternative treatments that are less expensive but equally or nearly as effective," the authors wrote.

Some states now have price transparency legislation and insurance companies are working on advanced technology to estimate patient costs. However, another issue facing physicians and patients is the potential misconception that the less-expensive option means receiving substandard care.

"Physicians should discuss what is known about these costs with our patients, so that the personal financial impact of medical care is incorporated into the selection of the best care for any given patient, in the same way that other potential toxic effect is considered. We can no longer afford to divorce costs from our discussion of patients' treatment alternatives."

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