State Websites Don't Share Most Useful Healthcare Prices, Study Says

Although more state agencies are posting prices for healthcare services, the information is often for urgent and unpredictable care — meaning consumers still have a difficult time cost-comparison shopping — according to study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study analyzed publicly available, patient-oriented websites specific to state government agencies or hospital associations from January 2012 through May 2012. Information posted by health plans or third parties was excluded.


As of early 2012, study authors identified 62 state-based websites that published healthcare prices. Most (47 percent) were provided by a state government agency or hospital association (39 percent), and most reported prices for inpatient care (73 percent) or surgeries (71 percent). Fewer websites reported price information for outpatient services (37 percent) or laboratory tests (10 percent), which are often less urgent and allow consumers to take time to compare prices.


Of information shared, most prices reflected billed charges (81 percent), which is different than the amount patients are expected to pay. For services that included both facility and professional fees, such as diagnostic procedures in the outpatient setting, 66 percent of websites only included facility fees in their price estimates. Furthermore, for services that involve clinical variation, only 13 percent of websites posted quality information alongside service price.


"Our data point to clear opportunities to improve publicly reported healthcare price information," the study authors concluded. "Greater relevance to patients could be realized by focusing information on services that are predictable, nonurgent and subject to deductibles rather than services that are unpredictable, emergent and would exceed most deductibles (e.g. hospitalizations for life-threatening conditions)."


More Articles on Healthcare Prices:

OIG : Medicare Pays 30% More for Lab Tests Than Other Health Plans
Arizona Unveils Hospital Price Transparency Website
CMS: Hospital Outpatient Charges Vary Just as Much as Inpatient

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