Center for Health Transparency launches in Maine

Price and cost transparency in healthcare has been a piecemeal movement at best, with individual providers often deciding on their own whether to provide prices and other relevant data to consumers.

The new Portland, Maine-based Center for Healthcare Transparency (CHT) aims to change that, with an ambitious goal to provide relevant pricing information to about half of the U.S. population by the end of the decade, the new organization announced.

The nascent effort is funded by a $5.67 million planning grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The center partnered with the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI), which serves as an umbrella organization for a variety of regional health collaboratives, and the Pacific Business Group on Health (PBGH), one of the biggest purchasers of employer health benefits in the western U.S.

The PBGH will work with the NRHI and the center to develop a set of protocols for breaking down medical claims, claims data and patient surveys into actionable information on provider prices and quality.

"When good information is available about where the best care is being delivered and how much it costs, there will be huge motivation for everyone involved to do better," PBGH president David Lansky said in the statement. "CHT will be integral in creating the blueprint to turn this objective into a reality."

The venture will lead to easily accessible cost and quality information for every provider that will allow patients to make wiser decisions about their care, officials said. 

Currently, there is little available information regarding specific price transparency. In a recent survey, TransUnion concluded that only a quarter of patients receive cost estimates prior to undergoing care. what is available has tended to shake up local markets. For example, the Surgery Center of Oklahoma's decision to post fixed, one-size-fits all prices for its surgical procedures has not only brought in patients from outside of the Sooner State but also prompted hospitals and other providers in the Oklahoma City area to cut their prices--although none of them are publicly posting them.

However, a lot of transparency efforts are like those of Crouse Hospital in upstate New York, which posts average prices but does not include ancillary costs such as fees for the surgeon or anesthesiologists.

To learn more:
- read the Center for Health Transparency statement