With the new year came a federal mandate for hospitals across the country to release their chargemasters, or price lists, for all services offered at their facilities. What impact will this have on increasing price transparency for the average health care consumer? Will it help or hurt continued price transparency efforts?
While hospitals are required to post their list prices in a “machine-readable format”, in practice this varies widely and often results in added confusion and difficulty in comparing prices for consumers.
Large and medium size employers, particularly those offering consumer directed health plans, have long offered price transparency tools designed to educate their members to become more informed health care consumers. Through these tools, as well as enhancing benefit offerings with advocacy and navigation services for their members, employers emphasize the importance of more conscious cost and quality decisions.
Results have been mixed: even with the breadth of tools and incentives available, a recent consumer study reveals 60% of consumers reported never having compared costs for recommended services to find the best value in 2018.
Increased cost transparency is always a good thing. However, continued efforts to create standard and transparent quality metrics will likely make a bigger impact than releasing price lists directly to consumers that are unlikely to resemble their final bill.