Health Cost Websites Not Much Help

Salynn Boyles | MedPage Today | June 19, 2013

A growing number of state-run websites are designed to help consumers compare the cost of healthcare services, but most lack critical pricing information and aren't all that useful, a study found.

Most of the 62 state-sponsored websites studied focused on in-hospital services rather than routine, non-urgent outpatient care, and most reported "billed" charges instead of the negotiated fees patients usually end up paying, according to the study, which was published in the June 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although pricing transparency has improved greatly over the past few years, patients are still not getting the information they need to make informed decisions about healthcare spending, said lead author Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MPH, of the Ann Arbor (Mich.) VA Health Care System and the University of Michigan Medical School.