Healthcare Business News

Most states score poorly on price transparency

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: March 25, 2014 - 12:01 am ET

A report card on healthcare price transparency concludes that most states have been all talk and no action when it comes to providing patients with information to make informed choices—even worse than last year.

In their second annual report card on state price transparency, the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute handed out 45 F's, three C's and two B's. Last year, two A's were awarded and only 29 F's.

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Maine and Massachusetts received B's. Colorado, Vermont and Virginia received C's. All other states got F's.

“Access to meaningful price information is more important than ever as consumers continue to take on a rising share of expenses,” Suzanne Delbanco, Catalyst for Payment Reform executive director, said in a news release.

Last year, the report explained that states received points for having transparency laws. But this year, states were also judged on how well they had implemented those laws. In 2013, for example, New Hampshire received an A in part for its law calling for price information to be publicly posted on the Web. This year, the state was given an F because its website is inoperative.

“Some states have robust price transparency laws and regulations, requiring them to create a publicly available website with price information based on real paid claims information,” according to the report. “But in reality, the public can't readily access that information because the website is poorly designed, or poorly functioning.”

States were not given credit for “volunteer” websites that were operated by local organizations but not authorized by statute.

“While these sites can be a valuable resource to consumers, if they are not legislated they can be short-lived, dependent on the good will and resources of the organization that hosts them,” the report stated.

The best example of these is the website run by Minnesota Community Measurement, a Minneapolis-based not-for-profit organization. The group's MN Health Scores website is described in the report as “superior” to the state website, which lists only hospital charge information. The state's lackluster website contributed to Minnesota's failing grade.

The scope, ease of use, utility and accuracy of state healthcare-cost websites were judged to assess how well states were living up to “the spirit and letter” of the laws they had in place.

Colorado was singled out for mild praise. The report cited the state's 2010 law that called for the creation of an all-payer claims database. But the report described Colorado's website, launched in 2012, as “geared primarily to policymakers and researchers.” A more consumer-oriented website is scheduled to launch this summer.

“American consumers deserve easy access to robust information about the cost and quality of their healthcare and we're especially disappointed that populous states with large numbers of consumers, such as New York, Pennsylvania and Texas didn't take steps to raise their failing grades,” Francois de Brantes, Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute executive director, said in the release. “It's our goal that the Report Card will inform advocates, lawmakers and policy experts about today's best practices or what constitutes a top grade and, over time, generate improvements in public policies and consumer websites across the nation.”

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks

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