- Health Affairs on Monday released a study showing that 15% of patients who were provided a lower-price option for an MRI chose the cheaper provider. Price variation in the study area was reduced by 30% during the two-year program.
- The study, conducted by a research subsidiary of WellPoint called HealthCore, found that over two years, per-test costs were reduced by $220 for those in the program. The program also had a "rising tide" effect: Non-participating providers also lowered their MRI prices when they started losing patient referrals.
- According to WellPoint chief medical officer and executive vice president Sam Nussbaum, "the study showed that consumers are responsive to price information delivered real time as they are making healthcare decisions."
Price variation is a surprise to no one; consumer sensitivity to it may be. The argument that patients are not sufficiently-educated consumers of healthcare services to differentiate between price and quality has been widely circulated as a defense against mandating price transparency; this study punches a hole in that defense.
And just as encouraging as this consumer sensitivity, says Nussbaum, "is how providers reacted to this shift in consumer utilization, with more than 30 hospitals voluntarily negotiating with our affiliated health plans to lower their MRI pricing to stay competitive in the marketplace."
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