Healthcare Prices for Common Procedures Are Hard for Consumers to Obtain: Survey Finds Hospitals not Prepared to Give Price Information to Consumers

Healthcare price transparency is more important than ever before because of the growth of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) among non-subsidized middle-income consumers. The Commonwealth Fund’s Healthcare Affordability Index for 2015 reported that, across the country, 43 percent of adults with moderate incomes – almost $47,000 for an individual and $95,400 for a family of four – said their deductible was difficult or impossible to afford. Here in Massachusetts, nearly 20 percent of families spent at least $3,000 on healthcare in 2014. And, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), deductible amounts can go up to $6,500 for an individual and over $13,000 for a family. This exposure to large out-of-pocket expenses means that the price of many procedures and office visits has a direct effect on consumers.

When healthcare prices are hidden or unavailable, consumers cannot make informed decisions. When they do try to get price information, it is, for the most part, impracticable to obtain. Transparency allows ordinary consumers to find out the price of medical procedures before they obtain services, and can help consumers better manage and control their healthcare spending. Sources of price information are not readily available to consumers, and when they are, they are difficult to navigate and, in general, not consumer-friendly.

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