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N.H. Prices Resist Sunshine

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A New Hampshire effort to reveal the cost of medical services has had little effect on their cost, officials say.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department released a Web-based HealthCost tool in February 2007.

Some critics feared the tool would lead to antitrust problems, such as physician price fixing, and increase the cost of care.

Others hoped publishing care price data would lower the cost of care, by helping consumers shop for the least expensive providers.

So far, the New Hampshire department has not observed any converging of care prices, and cost increases have been about as high as in previous years, department officials write in an analysis of the tool’s effects.

“We observed a high amount of variability with increases between years,” officials write. “Hospital provider payments appear to be increasing faster on average than payments to non-hospital providers. In several cases, the payment median for nonhospital providers did not increase during the 4 years analyzed.”

Department officials note that the HealthCost tool is still new.

“Early indicators may change as carriers and providers respond to increasing interest from consumers of health care,” officials write. “Further research at a later point in time is appropriate.”

A copy of the report is available here.