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Invited Commentary
August 2018

Clinicians and Health Care Price Transparency—Buyers vs Sellers?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(8):1133-1135. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.1503

The inaccessibility of price information in the US health care system prevents patients from anticipating and incorporating their health care costs into care-seeking decisions and from choosing the best-value clinician (physician or facility). There is wide price variation across clinicians in the same geographic areas,1 which means that patients, especially those enrolled in high-deductible health plans, can potentially spend less for many services. The goal behind health care price transparency is that prices can be part of a patient’s decision about where to seek care, giving clinicians an incentive to lower costs or make a compelling case for the comparative quality of care to attract patients. Increasing transparency could also benefit the health care system broadly because it would be increasingly difficult for clinicians to charge significantly higher prices than others without commensurate differences in quality; these high prices are a key contributor to higher health care spending in the US relative to other countries who are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.2

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