Transparency in health care pricing doesn’t come easily

The health care reform bill before the U.S. Senate would require hospitals to publicize their standard charges for services, but New Hampshire and Maine have gone much further in trying to make health care costs more transparent to consumers.

New Hampshire and Maine are the only states with Web sites that let consumers compare costs based on insurance claims paid there.

In New Hampshire, the price variation across providers hasn't lessened since the Web site went live in 2007.

The link is here.  You'll find the background data from New Hampshire, and a study, here.  Here are some anecdotal accounts.  Here is a CBO background paper on the topic.  I can think of a few hypotheses:

1. People don't check the website.

2. People can't interpret the information on the website.

3. People still go where their doctors recommend or to facilities they are familiar with.

4. Many local choices, especially in these states (somewhat rural, so-so road connections), don't involve a lot of competition.

5. All of the above.



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