Hospitals Required To Disclose Prices For Services

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Several states, in an effort "to make the health care system moreefficient," have begun requiring hospitals to disclose prices paid forservices, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. According to the Journal Sentinel, three states "are at the forefront of providing more information on hospital prices and how they can vary":

  • New Hampshire is disclosing the median amount specific health plans pay hospitals or clinics for about 30 common procedures;
  • Oregon is disclosing median prices for more than 80 procedures at hospitals; and
  • Massachusettsnext spring will begin disclosing average prices health plans payhospitals and health clinics for common procedures. In addition, thestate's Health Care Quality and Cost Council wants to provide information on what health plans pay specific hospitals and health clinics for services.

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Suchprice disclosures could become increasingly important ashigh-deductible health plans become more common and people are requiredto pay a percentage of their hospital bills through co-insurance, the Journal Sentinelreports. Proponents of consumer-driven health care believe that suchdisclosures will increase competition, which will encourage physiciansand hospitals to improve quality and control costs, according to the Journal Sentinel.

However,"hospitals have scant incentive to lower prices under the currentsystem since it doesn't mean they will attract more patients," the Journal Sentinelreports. According to health economist Robert Town, more health plansneed to be designed to encourage price comparisons. "Price transparencyby itself isn't necessarily going to get you anywhere," Town said,adding, "But price transparency with incentives might work to lowerprices" (Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/14).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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