Why is it so hard to figure out what medical care costs? Bill image via shutterstock.
“Thanks to rising annual deductibles and a push toward consumer-driven health care, people are increasingly encouraged to shop around for medical care. Many states or state hospital associations have price transparency initiatives, and there are a number of private companies that also purport to help consumers find value for their health care dollar.
“But the search for the best price is often stymied, not necessarily by a lack of information, but by a lack of relevant information.
“Price in health care is a squishy concept. Different words relating to cost – charge, price and out-of-pocket cost – all have different meanings and there is no standard among consumer transparency websites about which of these prices to report. So, while the price variation between hospitals is well-recognized, less often discussed is that when consumers search for price, the variation in information reported means they may see wide variation within the same hospital for the same procedure. The lack of standards in this respect can leave consumers confused and means some price transparency efforts may be doing more harm than good.”
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“Rising health care costs are stifling economic growth, consuming increasing portions of the nation’s gross domestic product, and putting added burdens on businesses, the public sector, individuals, and families. In spite of heightened concerns about the harmful impacts of US health care spending, information about what is driving spending is incomplete.
“To that end, the Health Care Cost Institute was established in 2011 as a non-profit, independent, non-partisan research institute dedicated to creating the United States’ most comprehensive source of information on health care activity and promoting research on the drivers of escalating health care costs.”