Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Health care pricing transparency

The health care reform bill before the U.S. Senate would require hospitals to publicize their standard charges for services, but New Hampshire and Maine have gone much further in trying to make health care costs more transparent to consumers.

New Hampshire and Maine are the only states with Web sites that let consumers compare costs based on insurance claims paid there.

In New Hampshire, the price variation across providers hasn't lessened since the Web site went live in 2007.
--Holly Ramer, Associated Press, on the inefficacy of price disclosure in health care

Indeed, when I saw the bill for Nancy’s scan, I almost fainted, but when I saw how little of it we ourselves had to pay, I felt like ordering up Champagne.
--Dennis Overbye, NYT, on why health care price disclosure is a good political soundbite but doesn't change anything

New Hampshire Insurance Department health policy analyst Leslie Ludtke said the state never promised costs would drop — it simply believed consumers had a right to as much information as possible.

"We never made any claims about transparency being the key to bending the cost curve," she said.

In fact, many opponents of creating the site insisted it would drive prices up because providers would see how much their competitors were charging and adjust their rates. The fact that hasn't happened is a huge victory, Ludtke said.
--Holly Ramer, Associated Press, on moving the goalposts and declaring a huge victory

In the Senate bill, the provision requiring disclosure of hospital charges is listed under a section titled "bringing down the cost of health care coverage."
--Holly Ramer, Associated Press, on what the U.S. Senate claims price disclosure will do

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