One econ major. Three (or more) opinions.

The Aite Group L.L.C., a consulting firm, recently put out a report on the concept of the rise of the U.S. health care price transparency market.

Michael Trilli, the author, defined “price transparency” as the “availability of price information to the consumer prior to making an appointment, at the point of service, and once the bill is received.”

Trilli is predicting that market could generate about $3.1 billion in 2016, up from about $540 million in 2012.

On the one hand: Great for whatever companies are in that market.

On the other hand: Whatever you think of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), whatever bad things the law might possibly do, the idea that consumers, insurers, employers and others could be spending $3.1 billion just on figuring out what the cost of care is in 2016 is horrifying.

When a market is so messed up that people are spending billions of dollars just to find out what the prices are, then the people involved in creating that mess are just plain waving a red flag asking for someone, anyone, to intervene in that market.  

Gathering and posting health care price data is good, clean work, and I guess it’s better than standing on the street corner smoking cigarettes, or jacking cars, but it seems as if $3 billion could pay for great health coverage for 300,000 children.

Or, if that kind of idea distresses you, $3 billion could provide a terrific, huge, completely voluntary, noncoerced donation to the endowment of the Ayn Rand Institute. With $3 billion (in voluntarily contributed cash provided by free-market trailblazers), the institute could probably set up a small libertarian settlement on the Moon.

Every doctor, hospital, benefit plan administrator, employer, insurance company worker, consultant, government official, member of Congress, and state lawmaker who has contributed to the current catastrophic lack of clarity in health care pricing should feel bad about that state of affairs.

On the third hand: We’ll never know if any of the people responsible for the lack of clarity feels bad about the situation, because a non-disclosure agreement will probably prevent those folks from discussing their views on topic. Please address any correspondence on that topic to their legal counsel.

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