Hospitals beware. Your customers may soon be comparison shopping, if they aren't already.
Hospital prices vary, sometimes widely, and some employers have started to test ways to drive patients toward quality hospitals that charge less than their competitors.
In California, Oregon and Texas, the push to encourage consumers to shop for value has underscored some stark price differences and employers' increasing unwillingness to pay more with no discernible benefit, researchers report in the latest issue of Health Affairs.
Indeed, the California Public Employees Retirement System and grocery chain Safeway have left the choice—and the cost—of selecting a pricey hospital or doctor to households.
The cost can be considerable, reports James Robinson, a professor of health economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and Kimberly MacPherson, the university's health policy and management program director.