Anthem BlueCross BlueShield recently announced that in several states it will no longer pay for MRIs and CT scans performed in hospital outpatient settings. Instead, as a cost reduction measure, Anthem is directing its members to free-standing imaging centers that are not owned by hospitals. Though this approach may not be popular with some, Anthem has made a bold leadership choice to address a critical problem.

Site-of-service – referring to the price differential that frequently exists for the same health care service delivered at different places – has been getting increasing attention over the last several years. Nationwide, as studies show, fees for imaging services at non-hospital-owned free-standing facilities are often one-half to one-third the cost of the same services performed at hospitals. A number of other health care services show similar differences, stressing how site-of-service is an important health cost issue to all of us.

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