- Consumers in Maryland can now compare costs of healthcare procedures before choosing a provider, the Baltimore Business Journal reports.
- The Maryland Health Care Commission is launching a statewide campaign called “Wear the Cost.” Consumers can access a state website to find price differences on four common procedures: hip replacement, knee replacement, hysterectomy and vaginal delivery.
- The website calculates two types of costs — typical and expected costs such as office visits or surgery, and costs associated with potentially avoidable complications. Consumers should look for hospitals with low total costs and low rates of avoidable complications to get the best value, the commission says.
Officials hope the campaign will ignite a conversation about healthcare quality and price disparities and help consumers make smarter decisions about their care. It reflects a broader movement to potentially drive down costs by giving patients the tools to shop around for the best prices and values.
“The U.S. has the highest health care costs in the world — and costs are rising faster than in other rich countries,” Dr. Robert E. Moffit, commission chairman, said in a statement. “In Maryland, you might pay $37,225 for a knee replacement at one hospital, and $22,687 for a knee replacement at another — this difference can translate to hundreds, even thousands, of dollars more out of the pockets of Maryland residents.”
A national poll by the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy found a majority of Americans don’t get price information about medical procedures or healthcare generally. Just a little over one-quarter of respondents said they seek cost information from providers. Those with insurance and higher income and education were more likely to ask about price than uninsured, lower-income individuals or those with a high school degree or lower education level.
Those numbers may be higher among younger consumers. A 2016 PNC Healthcare survey found 41% of millennials were likely to request estimates before undergoing treatment, compared with just 21% of baby boomers.
However, even those who seek cost information often don’t get it. About 25% of respondents in the Bucknell poll who acknowledged price shopping for healthcare said providers weren't forthcoming.
Maryland is not alone in trying to increase visibility and transparency around healthcare pricing. Three years ago, Massachusetts began requiring insurers to post healthcare price information online. And Arizona requires large medical facilities to post patient costs for the 50 top medical procedures. Smaller hospitals must provide price information on the top 35 most common procedures.