Consumer Reports article looks at healthcare price variation

The National Journal reports, “A new story from Consumer Reports highlights how extreme price variation and sketchy transparency can mean that even insured patients often end up on the hook for huge, unanticipated bills.”

The article “homes in on two big themes: The broad range of prices that various providers charge for the same procedures, even if they are all considered in the network of a particular insurer; and changes in how plans calculate ‘usual and customary charges’ mean that out-of-network reimbursements frequently cover a much smaller percentage of costs than patients typically realize.”

The CNN “The Chart” blog reports, “Nancy Metcalf, the magazine’s senior program editor and author of the article,” said, “What we found was there’s no such thing as a price for a health care service. Prices are all over the map and vary depending on where you have the service, and it’s much more likely to be more expensive if you have it in a hospital versus a doctor’s office.”

According to Metcalf, “The most consumer unfriendly thing is that it’s often impossible to find out what the service will cost ahead of time.”

Also, under the headline “More Americans Are Checking Prices Before Getting Health Care,” the NPR “Shots” blog reports, “In the latest NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll we asked people across the country whether they size up the prices for care before making decisions,” and how those who did went about doing it.

The poll found that “16 percent said they’d looked for prices beforehand, compared with 11 percent who’d answered that way in the previous poll.” The poll indicated that “most commonly, people got the information in person – at about 53 percent.”

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