Cover: Increasing Price Transparency in Health Care

Increasing Price Transparency in Health Care

Key Themes and Policy Options from a Technical Expert Panel

Published Feb 16, 2021

by Christine Buttorff, Chapin White, Monique Martineau, Spencer R. Case, Cheryl L. Damberg

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Research Questions

  1. What are some successful initiatives promoting price transparency, and why are they successful?
  2. What are barriers to their widespread use?
  3. What actions could the federal government take to remove barriers and promote price transparency in health care markets?

Price transparency is one strategy that policymakers have proposed to help consumers identify and select lower-priced health care providers and services, but use of price transparency websites remains low. This report examines current price transparency efforts and their features, describes barriers to more widespread availability and use of price information, and discusses possible ways to overcome those barriers.

RAND researchers, together with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, convened a panel of experts on price transparency to discuss these issues. Six key themes emerged: (1) Consumers are not often shopping before receiving services, (2) price information is difficult to access during services; (3) price transparency information can be misleading or inaccurate; (4) organizations lack common definitions, standards, and methodologies for sharing price data; (5) increasing the number of state all-payer claims databases may improve stakeholder access to price information; and (6) legal and regulatory barriers prevent the sharing of price data. The panel suggested a number of ways that the federal government could promote the availability and use of price information for stakeholders.

Key Findings

Key themes from the technical expert panel

  • Consumers are not often shopping before receiving services.
  • Price information is difficult to access during services.
  • Price transparency information can be misleading or inaccurate.
  • Organizations lack common definitions, standards, and methodologies for sharing price data.
  • Increasing the number of state all-payer claims databases may improve stakeholder access to price information.
  • Legal and regulatory barriers prevent the sharing of price data.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) and conducted by the Payment, Cost, and Coverage Program within RAND Health Care.

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