What New Hampshire can tell us about Trump's move to publicize hospital prices

Anne-Marie Kommers - Print  | 

New Hampshire has one of the oldest and most complete hospital price-transparency laws in the U.S. An examination of the state law's performance could help predict the potential success or pitfalls of Trump's June 24 executive order requiring hospitals to publish prices they negotiate with insurers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Five things to know:

1. New Hampshire's Department of Insurance has been publishing price information since 2007. Residents can search for about 120 procedures online and compare prices across hospitals, medical groups and insurance companies.

2. Supporters of price transparency say it will lower costs by fostering competition for patients between hospitals. Others, including experts in health policy and economists, say prices could actually go up as lower-priced hospitals try to match high-price competitors.

3. Prices in New Hampshire have lowered slightly since implementation of the law. For example, consumers and insurers have spent 3 percent less overall on imaging services listed on the state's website compared with those not on the site, according to Zach Brown, PhD, assistant professor of economics at the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan.

4. Finding the right price to list on the website has been a challenge in New Hampshire. The state bundles prices for services done under a single procedure and reports median prices, yet actual prices can vary widely from the one listed online.

5. Few people have taken advantage of New Hampshire's pricing information. Dr. Brown's research suggests only 8 percent of potential users have used the site.

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