Source: Health Care Pricing ProjectResearch from the Health Care Pricing Project shows that among 15 hospitals in Philadelphia, the price of a lower-limb MRI varied so much that a consumer going to the highest-priced hospital would pay six times more than that same consumer would pay at the lowest-priced hospital.
It’s no secret that health care prices nationwide vary widely from one market to the next, and even within individual markets. A panel on hospital mergers during AHCJ’s Health Journalism 2016 conference in Cleveland will examine the many factors driving these variations in hospital prices. We’ll also discuss how consumers can shop more effectively for the lowest-priced care.
The session, “Merger mania of health providers and the rise of dominant and potential monopolies,” will be 4:40-6 p.m. on Saturday, April 9. Continue reading
Photo: Carla K. JohnsonCraig Garthwaite, assistant professor, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (left); Roy Guharoy, Pharm.D. vice president and chief pharmacy officer for the Resource Group at Ascension (middle); and independent journalist and AHCJ member Duncan Moore (right) spoke at the Chicago chapter event “Drug Pricing: Covering the Controversy” at Columbia College in Chicago on Feb. 23.
A blockbuster hepatitis C drug costs $84,000, straining state budgets. Martin Shkreli acquires the rights to a generic and raises its price 5,000 percent. Presidential candidates react to the public outcry, claiming they know what to do about the drug prices.
What does it all mean? Until recently, “there’s been an equilibrium in the public mind between a free market regimen of the market setting prices and what the public and payers are willing to pay,” said independent journalist Duncan Moore, “but there are indications this informal tradeoff has begun to swing out of control.” Continue reading
New research finds that changing retail prices for generic drugs could hit some consumers hard, while others may benefit from steep drops. An joint analysis by AARP and the PRIME Institute at the University of Minnesota found that 11 widely used generic drugs had seen price increases greater than 30 percent, and two — both anti-infectives — had price increases exceeding 1,000 percent in 2013.
At the same time, 203 of 280 drugs in the study’s “basket” of widely used generic prescription drugs by older Americans (including Medicare beneficiaries) experienced a price decrease, with some costs dropping by nearly one-third. Continue reading
The post we did on Clear Health Costs got a lot of positive reaction so we asked the team involved in a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation-funded project involving two California public radio stations and the cost-tracking group to tell you more about it in their own words.
In the tip sheet, Lisa Aliferis of KQED, Rebecca Plevin from SCPR and Jeanne Pinder of clearhealthcosts.comgive you a glimpse under thehood of health care costs. “Health care costs both lack transparency and are wildly variable, not just from region to region but sometimes from block to block within the same city,” they begin.
They explain a few basics: what you pay, what insurers pay, what providers are paid, and what almost no one (except some of the uninsured) pays – the Chargemaster price. Even if you can’t build a data collection project, you can write about the variability in your community. “Put a human face on these dollar figures. Talk to people who have felt burned by the cost of a medical procedure, or confused by a huge bill. “ You might be able to find a handful of people who have had the same procedure in the same place – or the same procedure at two facilities just blocks apart in a city, or in adjacent counties in a more rural setting – and find how their experiences differed.
The “How I Did It” article by Lisa Pickoff-White, senior news interactive producer, KQED; Joel Withrow, product manager, KPCC/SCPR; and Pinder is more nitty-gritty. Your organization may not be able to do something on this scale, but it’s still worth a read to see how they approached it, what worked, and what tools they used (not just on the technical side – see the bottom of the post for other project management and collaboration tools). Facing an eight-week deadline they had to coordinate a far-flung team of journalists, data crunchers and developers scattered in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Bialystok, Kiev and Tahiti. (yes, Ukraine and Tahiti.)
Two rulings in one week in a case involving an Idaho hospital’s purchase of a physician group gave health care journalists a couple of significant stories to cover. The first one set a legal precedent, and the second one gave us a rare up-close look into how hospitals can drive up costs when acquiring physician groups.
Interestingly, the judge cited the work of two health care journalists who have covered the issue of rising health care costs in the past year as being among the reasons to unseal documents the parties in the case wanted to keep from the public.
In the first ruling on Jan. 24, B. Lynn Winmill, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Idaho, found that St. Luke’s Health System in Boise violated antitrust law (specifically, the Clayton Act and the Idaho Competition Act) when it acquired the Saltzer Medical Group, a 40-physician practice in nearby Nampa.
“This case represents the first time that a federal court has decided a case against a physician practice acquisition,” the health law practice of Epstein Becker & Green wrote on Friday in an alert to clients. The court ordered St. Luke’s to unwind the merger, although the hospital said it would appeal. Covering Health carried this story last week. Continue reading