Thursday, June 27, 2019

Does it help if hospitals post prices?

See One State’s Effort to Publicize Hospital Prices Brings Mixed Results: New Hampshire’s experience suggests what the Trump administration move may—and may not—accomplish by Melanie Evans of The WSJ. Excerpts:
"As the Trump administration moves to make confidential hospital prices public, New Hampshire’s dozen years of experience with price transparency suggests what it may—and may not—accomplish.

New Hampshire has one of the most comprehensive and oldest hospital price-transparency laws in the U.S. It posts prices charged by individual hospitals for magnetic-resonance imaging, gall bladder surgery and other services on a state website in an effort to give patients information they need to shop for more affordable options.

The disclosures have helped lower costs—though not by large amounts—and only a minority of residents are taking advantage of them, according to health-care spending experts who have studied New Hampshire’s experience.

“It’s not that clear-cut that it’s a home run,” said Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor of health policy and medicine at Harvard University, who studies how consumers use price information and New Hampshire’s efforts."

"Price-transparency supporters say shining a light on pricing will bring competition to hospitals and thereby lower costs. Yet health policy experts and economists say it could have the opposite effect, as low-price hospitals seek to match their higher-price competitors. It also could remove an incentive for a hospital to offer select insurers a discount for fear others will want it."

"Prices for MRIs and other imaging services with publicly listed rates fell 1% to 2%"

"One obstacle to New Hampshire’s effort, health-care spending experts say, has been the challenge of finding the right price to feature on the website. Health care bills for one procedure typically include prices for numerous items, such as medical specialists, scans and lab tests.

New Hampshire officials decided to bundle prices for services provided under a single procedure"

"The state posts median prices"

"Although shoppers don’t get exact prices on the website, the median price has helped users identify hospitals, clinics and other locations that are less expensive"

[Consumers] "may lack incentives to comparison shop because they have generous insurance plans or have already met their deductibles for the year."

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