Patients and insurers shop, save together in the Pine Tree State

Radiology is one of four medical services the state of Maine is considering “shoppable” under a new law created to get healthcare consumers and insurers collaborating for the best deals.

It’s a simple plan, at least in theory. A patient referred for an MRI quoted at, say, $900 could make a couple of phone calls. If the patient finds an imaging provider willing to do the same scan for $500, he or she splits the saved $400 with the payer. And the two have some leeway on how to divvy it up between them.

The Bangor Daily News reports that supporters of the law say rewarding consumers for seeking out better value in healthcare “benefits not only them but also insurers, and will ultimately spur competition among health providers who charge widely varying prices for the same services.”

The concept also has its detractors. The newspaper notes that the bill was opposed by insurers, the Maine Hospital Association and the integrated delivery network MaineHealth.

“These programs have had little or no impact on the total cost of care,” a spokesman for the latter testified prior to the law’s passage, “and it strikes me that these programs have done little to transform health care.”

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