Medical Price Transparency

OSPIRG Foundation is working to make sure consumers get to see health care prices up front.

SECRET PRICES CONTRIBUTE TO HIGH COSTS

Recent studies show that one third of every dollar we spend on health care is wasted on something that doesn’t improve our health.[1] One reason why is that hospitals get to keep their prices—and the extra charges and fees often tacked on—hidden from patients. Take a look at some of these examples:

IT’S TIME FOR UP FRONT PRICES

We can bring down the cost of care in Oregon by making sure consumers get to see health care prices up front, such as by requiring health care providers to post their prices online or to give patients the price of a recommended procedure in real time. 
 
There has been a robust public discussion of this issue in the national news media, as well as a spirited debate in the Oregon Legislature this year about one specific policy framework crafted by OSPIRG Foundation in 2014. The policy requires Hospitals and other providers to publicly post their prices online for the most common services and procedures, and if a consumer is looking for an estimate for a specific procedure, he should be able to get that in a reasonable amount of time from either his provider or insurance company. Public support for such solutions is high, but the health care industry has successfully resisted most meaningful efforts at change. We believe that momentum is on our side and that a breakthrough in the next few years is achievable.
 
OSPIRG Foundation is committed to reaching that tipping point through the following activities:
• Expand our multi-ideological coalition of support for meaningful price transparency to include Oregon business leaders, software developers and medical professionals.
• Continue to promote our policy framework through speaking engagements and presentations to regulators and other health care thought leaders in Oregon and nationally. Develop at least one variant of our basic policy aimed at expanding public access to health insurance price calculators, currently only available to a small number of people.
• Continue to educate the public, state policymakers and reporters about the merits of transparent health care prices.

[1] Institute of Medicine at the National Academies, Sept 2012, "Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America".
[2] CNN, March 2010, "Prescription for Waste" 
[3] OSPIRG blog, October 2013, "Thousand Dollar Ointment".
[4] Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data

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