Just seven states achieved a passing grade for making usable healthcare price information available to consumers, a new study finds.
The other 43 states failed at price transparency because they didn't collect claims data from all payers or they failed to make the data accessible to the public through a website, according to the 2016 Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws (PDF).
The report is the fourth installment by the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute and Catalyst for Payment Reform, two independent health policy organization. The report is meant to be a state-by-state resource that shows policymakers, health providers and consumers how states are progressing at price transparency.
"Many states have the laws on their books requiring the release of health care price information, but score poorly because of the design and implementation of those laws," said co-author Suzanne Delbanco, CPR executive director.
Three states received A grades. This year Colorado and Maine joined New Hampshire as top performers due to “the increased quality of their reporting and transparency websites.”
Oregon made the most progress, jumping to a B grade from an F the previous year. Vermont and Virginia received C grades and Arkansas a D. The rest were failing grades.
The authors said many states could dramatically improve their grades by boosting their websites and focusing more resources on price transparency.
"Real health care price transparency for consumers is dependent on rich data sources that provide meaningful price information on a wide range of procedures and services," said François de Brantes, report co-author and executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute. "But that's not enough. It must be presented on an accessible, publicly available website."
In a commentary in Health Affairs Tuesday, Delbanco, de Brantes and Judith Hibbard said price transparency is key to controlling healthcare costs.
“Without price transparency, consumers and their physicians cannot predict their medical bills or alter their behavior to choose high-quality, low-cost care,” the trio wrote.
"High deductible health plans—which now account for 24 percent of insured lives —can't function properly without public pricing information.”
Delbanco said obtaining a passing grade boiled down to the state's collecting claims data from all payers and then making the database easily accessible on a state website. She said 12 states that are collecting the necessary data failed this year's price transparency survey because they aren't sharing it with the public.
That would be an easy fix, Delbanco said. Health plans and other vendors are doing a much better job than just a few years ago sharing data about pricing with consumers. But it is still hit-and-miss which consumers are in plans that share the information. That makes it incumbent upon the states to be the repository of the data, she said.