17 of 120 hospitals couldn't provide price for hip replacement in 2012. That number more than tripled to 53 in 2016

Sixty-plus state healthcare pricing websites existed in 2012. The Government Accountability Office commanded CMS to prioritize price transparency in 2014. Increased interest in making healthcare prices available is apparent, but what remains unclear is whether that has incentivized hospitals to provide more price information, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Toronto, Boston University School of Medicine and New York City-based Mount Sinai Health Network returned to their 2012 survey of 122 hospitals' ability to provide pricing for a hip replacement surgery to compare how the hospitals performed in 2016. Twenty of the original hospitals were ranked as top orthopedic hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in 2011-12, and 102 were not top ranked, with two pulled from each state and the District of Columbia.

Of the original 122 hospitals, 120 remained open and independent in 2016. From June to August 2016, the researchers phoned each hospital up to five times posing as a granddaughter seeking price information for a hip replacement for her 62-year-old grandmother. Researchers asked hospital staff for the lowest cash bundled price for the procedure, including all hospital and physician fees. Hospitals only able to provide hospital-specific fees were asked for the name of an orthopedic surgery practice the researchers could contact to verify physician fees.

Researchers were able to obtain the bundled price for a hip replacement surgery from eight hospitals in 2016, down from 19 hospitals in 2012. By contacting the hospital and physician separately, the researchers obtained complete price estimates from 25 hospitals in 2016, down from 57 in 2012. There was an increase in the number of hospitals that could provide partial price estimates to researchers: 34 in 2016 compared to 27 in 2012. However, the number of hospitals unable to provide any price estimate more than tripled to 53 in 2016, compared to 17 in 2012.

"We found no evidence of improvement in hospitals' ability to provide price estimates or reductions in the estimated price for [total hip arthroplasty] between 2012 and 2016," the researchers concluded. "Our results provide sobering evidence that substantial efforts from government and industry to improve pricing transparency have had little tangible effect on availability of prices."

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