One of the biggest problems with healthcare today is that nobody knows how much anything costs. Not doctors. Not patients. Maybe some clerk in the billing dept. knows, but even that's a stretch. If nobody knows how much things cost, people can't plan how to use resources most efficiently. If everyone is shield from prices, there can't be effective competition between providers. Which is a shame, since it is competition that drives prices down and quality up in all other spheres of life. There is no doubt that price insulation is a driver in the healthcare cost explosion.
So what can be done about this?
What's to stop someone from compiling prices from different healthcare providers and putting that information online? That would be a huge advance if it happened. I can envision a website where patients can go to see the price of all services and tests before they visit a physician.
There is a website - Leslie's List - that is trying to do this on a small scale. Here is an example. In chicago, a brain CT a local clinical costs $268. At Northwestern Medical Center, $3100+. For the same tests. That's craziness. Why would you go to NW if you could go to the clinic for the same test for almost $3000 less. Patients don't generally have this information beforehand and so they can't make a cost-informed decision the way they do with everything else in their life - groceries, cars, appliances, electronics, etc.
Leslie's list is a step in the right direction. We need more of that and less darkness over prices.