The problems of the health care system are many and complex–burdensome state regulation, massive federal programs, counterproductive tax incentives, and the popular presumption that health care is a “right.” Making sense of the mess is extraordinarily complex, which means it is easy for advocates of increased government control to make simple promises, such as “universal” coverage and “free” care.
Yet the market continues to work, and the development of consumer-directed care is an enormous positive. As patients control more of their health-care destinies, companies are responding by providing them with more information. For instance, consumers will soon be able to rely upon Zagat-style ratings of doctors.
One of the nation’s largest health insurers, WellPoint, has teamed with Zagat Survey to let patients rate their doctors, just as diners rate restaurants in Zagat’s burgundy-colored guides.Instead of Zagat’s four categories for restaurants — food, dÃ©cor, service and cost — the ratings guide will consider trust, communication, availability and office environment. In addition to giving doctors a numerical score based on a 30-point scale, the site will include comments from patients.
The WellPoint program will be available online to more than a million members by the end of March. It plans to roll it out to all of its 35 million members but would not give a schedule.
The move by the insurer comes as consumers increasingly turn to the Internet to learn about products and services — and see customer reviews.
Other insurers, including Aetna, survey patients about physicians in their networks, posting the results online for members. A few commercial websites, such as Revolution Health and RateMDs .com, offer the public an opportunity to rate doctors. But WellPoint is the largest insurer to partner with such a well-known survey firm as Zagat.
“More consumers are asking for information about what other consumers think about their doctors to help them make better choices,” says Jason Gorevic, chief marketing and product officer at WellPoint.
Our challenge today is to hold off the forces of medical socialism until the market has had a chance to more fully expand consumer choice. Once more patients find themselves able to choose their own insurance, spend their own money, and decide on their own treatment, they aren’t likely to turn those powers over to government.