Massachusetts hospitals that charge more get more revenue

Academic medical centers and other hospitals that charge higher prices for their services received the lion's share of payments for providing care to patients in Massachusetts in 2012 and 2013.

That's the conclusion of the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), which published its findings earlier this week, based on the data from 13 commercial health plans that operate in the Bay State.

Higher-priced hospitals collected 86 percent of all payments for inpatient care and 73 percent of all outpatient service payments in 2013, according to the data compiled by CHIA. "This level of concentration has remained virtually unchanged in the last three years as there has been no substantial shift in the distribution of payments between higher and lower-priced providers," the report concluded.

Those facilities reaping the payment bounty were primarily academic medical centers, all of which had pricing thresholds above the median of all hospitals in Massachusetts. By contrast, community hospitals that provided a significant amount of safety-net services were more likely to receive smaller payments for the services they provided.

Partners Healthcare was the system that had the highest prices, with its facilities arrayed between the 68th and 95th percentile, according to the CHIA data. The study also concluded that hospitals and hospital systems with larger market share had higher prices and therefore collected more of the payments.

Massachusetts regulators recently moved to block a deal that would have allowed Partners to acquire more hospitals, citing concerns about how it would impact the cost of delivering care.

By contrast, nine out of the 10 hospitals affiliate with Steward Healthcare had prices below the median, according to the data.

Massachusetts has been among the leading states in terms of price transparency efforts, requiring all providers to furnish cost information to patients on request.

The study concluded that "the persistence of wide variation in relative prices suggests that there may be opportunities to lower healthcare spending by shifting utilization to lower-priced providers, or by payers and providers seeking greater value in their contractual price negotiations."

To learn more:
- read the CHIA study (.pdf)