Viewpoint: Hospital price transparency doesn't hit root of cost problem

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Regulation that aims to increase price transparency won't solve what is creating healthcare cost issues for patients, according to an op-ed published in The BMJ.

In the viewpoint article, researchers from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City said a proposal from the Trump administration that would require hospitals to post payment rate information online "seems intuitive." With prices published online, the theory is patients could compare prices and shop for the best value.

However, the researchers said studies have shown price transparency tools aren't widely used by patients. Additionally, some of the most expensive services result from emergency department visits, which patients don't often have the time to shop for. Plus, price transparency efforts rely on patients to navigate their own way through complex cost and quality information that isn't always straightforward.

"Perhaps more troubling is that these efforts could distract policy makers from addressing the main drivers of US healthcare prices, such as rapid and ongoing consolidation," the researchers said. "Concentrated hospital markets are becoming the norm in the US and are strongly associated with higher prices. Antitrust actions, such as preventing hospital mergers, could reduce and reverse consolidation, likely leading to lower prices."

Read the full article here.

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