NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 10, 2006

The move for a more public airing of the costs and quality of health care runs parallel with a growing interest by employers in offering insurance with higher deductibles and other cost-sharing by workers, says USA Today.

Supporters of high deductible insurance, including John C. Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, say that people who must use more of their own cash for care will be more judicious users of medical services. Goodman and others want more price and quality data available because, without it, people cannot shop.

However, according to USA Today:

  • U.S. consumers face challenges in obtaining reliable quality and pricing data with which to compare health care services.
  • While quality information is available for some hospitals and procedures, it is rarely available for individual doctors.
  • Pricing data generally are of little use to U.S. consumers because they reflect average charges instead of actual negotiated rates.

Critics of the effort to make U.S. residents better health care consumers say the industry "might never be a true marketplace," in part because the most expensive health care decisions generally are made by sick, scared patients in emergency situations.

Another roadblock that some employers and insurers might face when they try to get patients to compare cost and quality: price might not matter if patients like their doctors, says USA Today.

Source: Julie Appleby, "Shopping for health care prices can be pretty confusing," USA Today, May 9, 2006.

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