45 States Earn an ‘F’ for Health Care Price Transparency

Most states fail miserably at disclosing health care price information to the public, a study finds. But one state has gone from a grade of "F" in 2014 to an "A" today.

45 States Earn an ‘F’ for Health Care Price Transparency Photo (cc) by sun dazed

Wondering how much your health procedure or checkup will really cost? You’re probably not alone.

All but five states earned an “F” for health care price transparency in a recent analysis. And only one state — New Hampshire — earned an “A.”

That analysis is part of the latest annual “Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws” created by two nonprofits, the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute.

The report looked at whether states have passed laws or regulations requiring health care pricing information to be made public. It also rates states on how effectively those laws are being implemented.

States also are rated on how well they provide access to accurate price information via consumer-friendly websites.

A 150-point system was used to “grade” each state. A state could earn up to 100 points for price transparency laws, and up to 50 points for legislated price transparency websites.

The states that did not earn a failing grade are:

  • New Hampshire: A
  • Colorado: B
  • Maine: B
  • Vermont: C
  • Virginia: C

In a Q&A published by Texas A&M University after the report card’s release, Michael Morrisey, professor of healthy policy and management at Texas A&M’s School of Public Health, defines health care price transparency as “having relevant information on health care products and services.”

Health care price transparency has become a bigger issue for consumers because more health insurance plans have “pretty sizeable deductibles,” Morrisey says.

That is true, he adds, whether they obtained insurance through an employer or a health care exchange created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare:

“If I have a $6,000 deductible, I’d like to know that I can get the same procedure, take a colonoscopy for example, for $200 less depending on which location I go to. We are in the beginnings of a consumer awakening for the need for useful kinds of price data because of the big deductibles consumers are increasingly facing.”

New Hampshire was singled out for praise just one year after it had earned an “F” grade. This year’s report says the state’s new website — NH HealthCost — “is now a prime example of a price transparency website built with consumers in mind,” with relevant information for both insured and uninsured patients.

Are you surprised that so many states got an “F”? Let us know what you think in a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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