At this year's ALFA Conference & Expo, Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do? brought up an interesting point of view regarding transparency in the assisted living industry. Specifically, Jarvis suggests publishing fee structures on the company website, providing answers to common questions, eligibility criteria and services offered. Industry leaders are now weighing in on this discussion on the ALFA Forum, with differing opinions. Should assisted living facilities publish fee structures online?

On one side of the coin are those who agree with Jarvis. Brian Geyser of CareNetworks, LLC voices his support for transparency, noting that advancements in technology have created a consumer demand for immediate gratification. Today's consumers expect to find the answers they're looking for by visiting company websites and reading published information and opinions online. Geyser suggests going the extra mile and spelling out the true costs of living in an assisted living facility. How are the rates calculated? What will a family expect to pay out of pocket in certain situations? What about cost savings in terms of time off work, safety and security, socialization and opportunities for activities.

Flip the coin and you'll find a totally opposite perspective. Executives from smaller assisted living homes say they don't publish rates on their website because, without significant contextual information, their rates don't appear competitive with larger assisted living communities. That's because, according to this poster, larger companies tend to tack on fees for extra services and supplies, whereas smaller companies may offer rates that are all-inclusive. The standpoint here is that independent facilities could lose potential referrals from consumers; marketing and admissions reps don't have the opportunity to explain benefits and price structure to consumers who simply opt for the lowest prices. Others point out that the cost of care is a very personalized and individual issue, and the best way to provide an accurate assessment based on services offered and a residents' needs is for both parties to have a face-to-face discussion and evaluation.

In defense of their position, several executives weigh in suggesting that providing the appropriate amount of context and explanation reduces the odds consumers will be confused or misled. Further, a general fee structure, description of different levels of care, services offered and the needs best served by the facility gives families an idea of what they'll be getting for their money. A prominent, bold statement noting that the fee structure provided is a guideline and actual costs are individualized based on residents' needs can serve as a call to action: For an accurate cost/benefit analysis for your loved one's needs, call us to schedule a tour and a meeting.

What are your thoughts on price transparency? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

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