American consumers gained considerable knowledge and power when a huge Medicare database was recently distributed to the public in easy-to-understand language.
The data revealed what many patients have long suspected – hospitals charge Medicare tremendously different prices for the same procedures.
According to The New York Times, for example, “in Saint Augustine, Fla., one hospital typically billed nearly $40,000 to remove a gallbladder using minimally invasive surgery, while one in Orange Park, Fla., charged $91,000 [and] … in one hospital in Dallas, the average bill for treating simple pneumonia was $14,610, while another there charged over $38,000.”
This wasn’t the first time that a freshly unearthed government database bolstered the average consumer. Earlier this spring, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released detailed – but fully understandable – data that showed which banks have the most consumer complaints. The CFPB had previously issued data on credit card complaints; but now it has broadened its data distribution to include customer protests about mortgages, student loans, credit scores, and other products.
As BloombergBusinessweek, noted, the CFPB database has already had an impact on improving consumer service: “Response times have sped up by 3 percent since the database came online … And banks are giving more customers a break: The number of credit-card cases Capital One Financial, Citigroup, American Express, and GE Capital Retail Bank have resolved in clients’ favor rose 12.9 percent in the past six months.”
The Medicare and CFPB data disclosures are huge wins for the open-data movement, which seeks to democratize a vast treasure trove of accumulated government data. That consumers can now command equal footing with big, established, and often opaque institutions like banks or hospitals, is yet another reason to support open data.
via Big Think – KEVIN MERRITT
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