Some U.S. group health insurance experts see the LASIK eye surgery market as a model for reforming the U.S. health finance system.
LASIK procedures use lasers to ease conditions such as nearsightedness by reshaping the cornea.
Few U.S. health insurers will pay for LASIK eye surgery, in part because some eye doctors still think the risks outweigh the benefits.
The doubts mean that insurers have left patients to haggle over prices directly with the surgeons.
The average price of LASIK surgery fell to $1,556 per eye in early 2002, from an average of $2,180 per eye when the procedure was introduced in 1998, according to Market Scope, Manchester, Mo., a refractive industry newsletter.
When a patient goes to a doctor for LASIK surgery, “you would know exactly what its going to cost,” says Brad Kimler, a health care consultant in the Boston office of Hewitt Associates L.L.C.
When patients get procedures covered by commercial group health insurance, they rarely have any idea what the list price is, let alone what the insurer will really pay the doctors and hospitals.