State-Based Health Care Price Websites Lacking
Greater focus needed on pricing for predictable, non-urgent services subject to deductibles
TUESDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- State-based, patient-oriented websites reporting health care prices need to be improved, according to a research letter published in the June 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Jeffrey T. Kullgren, M.D., M.P.H., from the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan, and colleagues conducted systematic Internet searches to identify publicly available, patient-oriented websites hosted by a state-specific institution (e.g., a state government agency or hospital association) that enabled patients to estimate or compare prices for health care services in that state. Information reported by health plans and third parties was excluded.
The researchers identified 62 patient-oriented, state-based health care price websites, with half of the sites launched since 2006. Most were provided by a state government agency (46.8 percent) or hospital association (38.7 percent). Prices of inpatient care for medical conditions (72.6 percent) or surgeries (71.0 percent) were presented most often, while information about prices of outpatient services, including diagnostic or screening procedures (37.1 percent), radiology studies (22.6 percent), prescription drugs (14.5 percent), and laboratory tests (9.7 percent), was reported less often. Most prices reflected billed charges (80.6 percent).
"Greater relevance to patients could be realized by focusing information on services that are predictable, non-urgent, and subject to deductibles (e.g., routine outpatient care for chronic diseases) rather than services that are unpredictable, emergent, or would exceed most deductibles (e.g., hospitalizations for life-threatening conditions)," the authors write.
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