Healthcare Price Transparency: Why It's an Issue

Bob Herman | Beckers Hospital Review | April 26, 2013

Healthcare prices have been an enigma within the U.S. healthcare system, especially in light of this year's TIME exposé on why healthcare and hospital services cost so much. Simply put: More patients are starting to question why their healthcare bills are so high — and why they can't find healthcare prices at all.

In an effort to clarify the muddied waters of healthcare price transparency, Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute released a report in March that quantified how a majority of states have failed to enact comprehensive healthcare price transparency laws. The two groups graded each state on whether healthcare pricing information is available, how accessible it is and the scope of information available. Overall, 29 states received an "F" grade, and seven states received "D" grades, meaning an overwhelming majority of states do not offer consumers adequate information on healthcare prices.

While hospitals and other healthcare players work on becoming more transparent in their prices, one hurdle will still remain: Communicating to patients that prices and quality healthcare are two completely separate things.

"...we have to continue to educate American consumers about cost and quality relationship — and the fact there really is none. People assume more expensive care is better. We have to pair cost information with quality information. Otherwise, consumers may assume more expensive care is better."