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Life Health > Health Insurance

Experts Disagree About Effect Of Health Price Transparency

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Insurance executives, benefits buyers and health care providers have much more faith in the power of price information than academic researchers, labor leaders, consumer advocates and government officials do.

Researchers at the Commonwealth Fund, New York, have published data supporting that conclusion in a summary of results from an informal survey of 241 “health care opinion leaders.”

About 56% of the 77 insurance executives and benefits buyers, and 53% of the 70 health care providers who participated predicted that making more detailed health care price information available to consumers could reduce health care spending by at least 1%.

Only 49% of the 37 government officials, labor leaders and consumer advocates who participated said they think price transparency can cut spending by 1% or more, and only 42% of the academic researchers expressed that level of optimism about the power of pricing information.

More than one-fifth of the researchers, government officials, labor leaders and government advocates expect price transparency to have no effect on health care spending, the researchers report.

The researchers found that the insurance executives and benefits buyers agreed with other survey participants that getting consumers information about the quality of the care providers deliver is a high priority.

Only 51% of the insurance executives and benefits buyers, and 38% of the other survey participants said increasing price transparency is a high priority.

Most participants, including 77% of the insurance executives, said providers, insurers and the government all should share the cost of paying for any new data collection efforts needed to support transparency initiatives.

Commonwealth Fund researchers say the participants tend to agree that consumers will have a hard time making much use of the price and quality available to them over the next 3 years.

“Beyond just providing more information, we need to learn more about the types of information that are useful to patients,” Tony Shih, a quality improvement specialist at the Commonwealth Fund, says in a statement. “For instance, it’s not just the price of a specific visit or procedure that’s meaningful, but the total price for treating a condition over time.”


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