Webcast will explore transparency in the cost of health care


On Jan. 1, many formerly uninsured Americans will have health insurance coverage and thus will be prepared to engage with the health care system.

But the newly insured will be like most Americans using the health care system today: They will lack the information they need about the cost of health care services and about how much of the total cost is their responsibility.

And, like most Americans, many of the newly insured will have high-deductible health plans and thus may face sticker shock when they visit and physician or hospital and learn how much they have to pay out of pocket until they reach their deductible.

This lack of price transparency is widespread in the U.S. health care system. Yet, for years, health insurers and employers have been shifting the responsibility to pay for care to consumers and employees. Clearly there is a pressing need for information on the cost of care.

AHCJ will explore these issues during a one-hour webcast on price transparency on Dec. 12 at 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific).

Suzanne F. Delbanco
Suzanne F. Delbanco

The panel members for “The cost of health care: Is transparency possible?” will be Suzanne Delbanco, Ph.D., executive director of the Catalyst for Payment Reform in San Francisco, and Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.

CPR is an independent organization representing employers and other health care purchasers. It has called on health insurers and providers to make health care price information more readily available to consumers.

Katherine Hempstead
Katherine Hempstead

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on health and health care, working with organizations and people to identify ways to help Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need.

On Wednesday (Nov. 20), CPR will release a report examining the strengths and weaknesses of web-based price transparency tools such as those from Castlight Health, ClearCost Health, and Healthcare Blue Book.

In March, CPR and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute issued a Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws in which it gave 29 states a letter grade of “F” (the lowest score on a scale from A to F). Only two states (Massachusetts and New Hampshire) received the highest grade.

Last month, RWJF announced the winners of its Hospital Price Transparency Challenge, in which the foundation asked information technology specialists to use data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to develop tools to help consumers make better decisions. A member of the panel that reviewed the submissions, Hemsptead says much of the price and quality information available in health care today is of limited use. For dozens of other products and services, a wide variety of information is available to help consumers assess price and quality, she adds.



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Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns is AHCJ’s health beat leader for health policy. He’s an independent journalist based in Brewster, Mass., who has covered health care, health policy and the business of care since 1991.