Patients say they want price transparency, but many are completely unaware of what information is out there, and have no idea how to find it, at least in Massachusetts.1
“We knew that consumers were not seeking price information for healthcare services. But we wanted to know why,” says Barbara Anthony, Pioneer Institute’s senior fellow in healthcare. Anthony and colleagues surveyed 500 Bay State adults. Some key findings:
- Only 20% of consumers tried to find out prices before they obtained a healthcare service.
- Seventy percent of consumers said they wanted to know prices, but about the same percentage admitted they did not know price estimator tools existed. Consumers also were unaware that both hospitals and doctors are obligated under Massachusetts law to provide price information upon request.
“Basically, consumers didn’t know they are entitled to get the price of a healthcare service before obtaining that service. They had never even thought of asking for prices,” Anthony says.
Consumers trust their doctors, insurers, and the state of Massachusetts the most regarding providing price information. “Hospitals were pretty low on the trust scale when it came to getting price information,” Anthony reports.
That likely reflects the fact most hospitals do not readily provide prices until after a service is rendered and a bill is sent. “Hospitals are quick to post information about financial assistance and credit arrangements, but make it difficult for consumers to find out how much even routine services cost,” Anthony notes.
With the federal government stepping in to require hospitals to post prices paid by insurers, says Anthony, “there is a growing recognition that secret pricing for healthcare services is headed for the chopping block.”
- Pioneer Institute. Survey: Consumers want healthcare price information, but few realize it’s available. Oct. 28, 2020.