Will Hospital Price Transparency Drive Up Healthcare Costs?

As more people demand healthcare price transparency, in light of a recent TIME exposé on high medical charges, a Duke University physician has argued price transparency could "backfire" and cause healthcare costs to rise, according to an article in The Atlantic.

In the article, Peter Ubel, MD, an internist and behavioral scientist at Duke, said price transparency leads to lower costs in most other marketplaces. For example, when high-quality flatscreen TVs first came out, they commanded thousands of dollars. Since then, consumers have been more reluctant to buy expensive TVs when a less expensive one is available with seemingly comparable quality.

However, Dr. Ubel argued healthcare is different. He said insured consumers have little to no incentive to shop for healthcare deals because health insurance companies "pick up most of the tab for patients' healthcare."

Additionally, Dr. Ubel argued that patients buck economic theory because "people assume the cost of a good or service tells them something about its quality." So although there may be no difference between a $10,000 hip replacement and a $100,000 hip replacement, some people may go for the more expensive procedure due to the placebo effect.

The common argument against Dr. Ubel's piece is that too much healthcare policy is based on who should pay what instead of asking why healthcare bills are so expensive in the first place, a central focus of the TIME article.

More Articles on Healthcare Price Transparency:

Hospitals Would Post Prices for 50 Most Common Procedures Under North Carolina Bill
AHA Supports Bill That Would Require Hospitals to Post Prices
Report: 29 States Earn "F" in Healthcare Price Transparency

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