Patients Use Medical Auction Websites To Solicit Bids From Providers

August 6, 2014 in News

Some consumers are turning to medical auction websites that allow patients seeking non-emergency care to post their health needs online where physicians can submit bids to perform the treatment or surgery, Washington Post/Kaiser Health News reports.

Online Auction Details

One such website, called Medibid, links patients to physicians and facilities that perform the non-emergency medical care they are seeking.

The site does not verify physicians’ credentials, but it does require that participating physicians submit their medical license numbers so patients can verify them.

According to Medibid founder Ralph Weber, about 120,000 customers — or “seekers,” as they are called on the site — have used the service so far. Many of the patients:

  • Lack insurance;
  • Have high-deductible insurance plans; or
  • Have faith-based coverage plans.

Patients are charged $25 per request or around $60 for an unlimited number of requests per year.

According to the Post/KHN, about 6,000 physicians, surgery centers and hospitals have registered as “bidders” on the site. Providers are charged fees ranging from $50 to bid on one request to $250 to bid on multiple requests.

According to Post/KHN, many bids cover a package that includes:

  • Anesthesia services;
  • Facility fees; and
  • Surgeon charges.

Webber described the website as “a free-market alternative to Obamacare,” adding that it aims to spur “transparency and also competition.”

Critics Express Concerns

Critics of medical auction websites like Medibid have raised concerns about a lack of quality indicators for prospective patients. In addition, they argue that procedures not performed in hospitals usually have fewer safeguards for patients and are less regulated.

Arthur Caplan, who heads the New York University Langone Medical Center’s bioethics division, said the rise of such websites is “a phenomenon that is in part being spawned by the absurd, nonsensical and inexplicably unfathomable pricing of American health care.”

He noted that hospitals and insurers monitor physician complication rates and costs related to errors, and he expressed concern about the lack of oversight in free-standing surgical centers where many of these procedures are performed (Boodman, Washington Post/Kaiser Health News, 8/5).

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