4 price transparency considerations for providers

The majority of Americans want to compare healthcare prices, but many don't know how to find the information they need, according to a report from Public Agenda.

Of 2,010 Americans polled, more than half have actively sought cost information before receiving care, and 21 percent of Americans compared prices across multiple providers during the process. About a third only checked prices for one provider.

Moreover, consumers who price-compare are more likely to be responsible for adult family members' healthcare decisions, the report found. More than half of consumers who compare prices across providers are responsible for such decisions, compared to 34 percent of consumers who only checked a single provider's prices.

The report also found low awareness of price disparities in healthcare. Fifty-seven percent of insured consumers and 47 percent of uninsured consumers did not know different providers often charge differently for the same services. However, 57 percent of respondents said they would want to know the prices of services ahead of time, and 43 percent said they would choose a less expensive option if they had access to that information. A clear majority of respondents--71 percent--said higher prices do not necessarily indicate better care quality.

"Overall, these findings signal many people are considering price when they choose providers and may be receptive to efforts that enable them to do more effectively," said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda, in a report announcement

These findings, the report states, have several implications for providers going forward, including:

  • Providers and staff must have increased capacity to provide price information
  • Policymakers and providers must help consumers understand the nature of price variations within the healthcare industry
  • Despite the potential to pay less, many consumers live in areas where they feel their choice of providers is limited, whereas others are comfortable enough with their providers that they would not want a new one even if it meant saving money
  • Many Americans wish to find reliable pricing information but are not sure how to find it, which "suggests a need for more outreach and education about reliable sources of price information"

Some providers, such as the Ohio Hospital Association, have used "secret shopper" programs to assess price transparency, FierceHealthFinance previously reported. Much work remains at the state level, with a 2014 report finding most states earned failing grades on price transparency.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- read the announcement