Price transparency barriers remain

Although price transparency is considered crucial for lowering overall healthcare costs, there are still many stumbling blocks toward achieving it.

"Have you ever walked into a doctor's office and seen a price posted for all the tests, products or procedures that might be offered during your visit? At the hospital? Ever seen a price list at the local pharmacy," asked The Fiscal Times, which reported on the issue in general. It noted the competition between insurers and providers as among the reasons for the lack of transparency.

The Los Angeles Times was more specific: It cited a 2006 California law requiring hospitals to post their average charges for common procedures on a website run by state regulators. However, it noted that few posted those prices on their own websites, which would make it easier for consumers to find.

The newspaper also contacted 10 hospitals to get price estimates for a gallbladder removal, a fairly routine procedure that often can be done on an outpatient basis. Only one, California Pacific Medical Center, gave a full price for the procedure. However, its quote did not include the prices charged by physicians.

"This really highlights how impossible it is for consumers right now with high-deductible plans to effectively shop for care," Ateev Mehrotra, a policy analyst for Rand Corp., told the LA Times.

For more:
- check out the Fiscal Times article
- read the Los Angeles Times article