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June 2015

The Role of States in Improving Price Transparency in Health Care

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Division of General Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(6):886-887. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0628

To make smart choices about their health care, individuals need accurate and timely information about quality and price. States have broad responsibilities for the regulation of health insurance and the provision of medical care and are also major purchasers of health care for their employees. Thus, states have important roles in fostering price transparency.

At present, even general information about average health care prices is unavailable to most people in the United States.1 Moreover, the wide variation in prices defies logic. Even for seemingly similar services within the same geographic areas, prices can vary more than 2-fold.2 Price information is also disconnected from conversations with physicians, who can help their patients decide how to weigh the clinical advantages, disadvantages, and costs of alternative approaches (eg, watchful waiting or additional tests or procedures). Patients should be able to anticipate their out-of-pocket costs and balance these costs against the benefits of health care services.

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