Report urges price transparency action

The time is ripe to push more healthcare price transparency reforms, a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress concludes.

The current healthcare pricing environment is opaque at best, according to the nonpartisan think tank. "Imagine receiving a bill for $8,000 for car or home repairs without having first had a chance to receive a price estimate or the opportunity to comparison shop. That scenario is preposterous, yet it is exactly how we pay for our healthcare," Maura Calsyn, the center's director of health policy, wrote.

Moreover, the current level of transparency is all but useless for patients, according to the report. "Listed prices are not the same as a patient's out-of-pocket costs, and the listed price most likely reflects only one part of a patient's treatment," said the report, which concluded that lack of price transparency raises healthcare costs as a whole.

Price transparency is a surging issue in healthcare, fomented in part by continuous insurer cost-shifting, as well as ongoing media reports that hospitals either disregard their own chargemasters wholesale, or vastly ratchet up patient charges for even basic services, such as the saline in an IV bag.

However, another recent report by the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute and the Catalyst for Payment Reform gave 90 percent of states failing grades for their healthcare price transparency efforts, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

Providers should embrace the provisions in the Affordable Care Act intended to encourage price transparency, according to the report. That includes making the cost-sharing requirements imposed on insurers "consumer friendly...provid[ing] uninsured and out-of-network patients with episode-based costs, which would also be guaranteed," and adding an overall value rating for each healthcare provider to the Medicare Compare website star rating system, based on quality and price data. The report also urged greater transparency in the pricing of medical devices.

To learn more:
- read the Center for American Progress' report