Cost Transparency: Communicating the Cost of Care to Patients & Potential Patients

In terms of cost transparency, healthcare is the wild west. You would never buy a car without knowing what it was going to cost, but every day Americans walk into hospitals and treatment centers doing just that. Having health insurance has insulated consumers from knowing the true cost of care, but as healthcare prices continue to rise, and consumers grow frustrated with the lack of transparency, it becomes more and more clear that something has got to give.

As providers, you likely understand why transparency is such a sticky issue. You can’t predict with 100% certainty what services a patient will need. While this makes perfect sense, when you consider that consumers want to know what they’ll be charged, keeping costs hidden could be bad business – especially in substance abuse where costs are somewhat certain and competitors abound.

How can substance abuse treatment providers begin to bring cost transparency to fruition?

Be Forthcoming About What Insurance Pays – And What it Doesn’t

One thing providers can do to move toward transparency is to simply be forthcoming about what a patient’s insurance will pay vs. what their total cost will be. If, for example, the payer caps at $250 a day, and treatment itself costs $1000 a day, the patient should know that they’ll be on the hook for the remaining $750 a day, an eye-popping $22,500 for a 30-day program.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offers an excellent example of how to communicate cost transparency to potential patients without revealing their costs to competitors.

Be Forthcoming about What Services Are Covered

Sure, equine therapy may be beneficial in recovery, but it may not be covered by insurance. If your facility offers alternative treatments, be forthcoming about their costs and whether or not they’re covered by insurance a patient’s insurance.

Be Up Front About Treatment Options – and the Total Cost of Care

You don’t have to list your prices on your website in order to give potential patients the truth about what their care may, or will, cost.

Discussing the treatment process, and related costs, with a patient or their caregiver prior to admission can increase the “buy in” that will be necessary to see the patient through recovery and beyond.

Cost Transparency is Just the Beginning

In some utopian healthcare future, consumers won’t just have access to cost transparency, but also clinical data related to treatment efficacy. This is a good thing. As an industry with a vulnerable patient population, it is imperative that treatment providers be as transparent as possible about the cost, process and anticipated outcomes. There is too much at stake to continue operating in the dark.

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