GAO: HHS must enhance price transparency

The Government Accounability Office (GAO) has called on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to greatly improve price transparency for healthcare consumers, according to a new report.

The GAO report asked HHS to "determine the feasibility of making estimates of complete costs of healthcare services available to consumers, and ... identify next steps."

The agency, the watchdog arm of Congress, concluded that current healthcare regulations and "legal factors" make it difficult for consumers to obtain specific prices for the care they receive, particularly final costs.

In one example, the agency contacted a variety of physician offices to get the price of a diabetes screening--and was consistently told an office visit was required prior to disclosure of such a price. The GAO also noted that the negotiated prices between an insurer and provider were often kept from consumers for legal and trade purposes.

Although some initiatives on the state level exist to provide more price transparency, the GAO concluded that only a handful are able to give consumers an actual final price for care.

For more information:
- read the Becker's Hospital Review article
- read the GAO report (.pdf)