Chet Burrell Shares Realities About Price Shopping in Healthcare

When patients select their care delivery sites based solely on price, they may misjudge their options, said Chet Burrell, president and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

When patients select their care delivery sites based solely on price, they may misjudge their options, said Chet Burrell, president and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Transcript (modified)

Greater price transparency means patients can pick and choose where to get their care based on cost. However, this could make care management more difficult. Does this trend of patients frequently changing care delivery sites concern you?

We are concerned about that. If you shop simply based on price, particularly prices for things you can understand, the simpler things in the medical spectrum, you can make misjudgments.

You must be very careful about consumer-directed healthcare. It’s always useful to keep in mind that the top 10% of the people—in any given population, ours included—consume two-thirds of all of the spending. They’re really sick, and the next 10% or another 15%, so if you get to the top 20%, it’s 80% of all the spending. This is typically for people who have multiple diseases or serious illnesses. When you get to that stage, you’re not shopping and it’s not about price; it’s about whether you get access to the services you need and where do you think you have high-quality care. And that’s where the action really is: getting better outcomes.

So we’re cautious about shopping price. This is not like buying a toaster: it’s hard to compare the products. What we point out are primary care physicians [PCPs] who are in our network—it’s a very large network with about 4000 PCPs—where we have established information about their patterns of practice and what outcomes they get. And we think it’s more effective to wisely pick a PCP, who in turn directs your care, than for you to try to direct your own care by shopping price.