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Beyer Bill Would Bring Comparison Shopping to Health Care

United States Congress / Wikimedia Commons

As Congress approaches the end of the year, the Democratic House majority is introducing a flurry of new legislation — including reforms to health care.

One bill aims to create more transparency about the cost of care.

Health insurance companies should be required to maintain a price-comparison tool. That’s the idea behind a new bill introduced by Congressman Don Beyer of Alexandria, whose family owns several automobile dealerships.

Beyer says the price comparison tool is needed for health plans but not for the automobile industry.  “We wouldn’t do that with a new car because everyone knows you don’t pay list price, pretty much, for a new car. It’s part of the fun of negotiating the price down. But people don’t usually have the option to negotiate down their surgery cost or their kidney replacement.” 

JoAnn Volk at Georgetown University says it’s helpful to consumers to have information about cost-sharing, including deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.   “You may see in your plan documents, in the summary they give you, that you owe 20 percent of a cost to a visit to a doctor. You have no idea 20 percent of what, and that really matters in dollars and cents to consumers.”

Beyer says the number one issue for most Americans right now is the cost of health care, and that his bill is an effort to empower consumers to make better decisions.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.