Price Transparency Tool Increases Mean Outpatient Spending

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Only 10% of employees offered the tool used it at least once in the first 12 months.
Only 10% of employees offered the tool used it at least once in the first 12 months.

HealthDay News — Employee use of a price transparency tool does not cut health care spending, according to a study published in the May 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sunita Desai, PhD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues measured the association between offering a health care price transparency tool and outpatient spending. The tool was offered by 2 large employers in multiple market areas across the United States (148 655 employees) and provided users information about what they would pay out of pocket for services from different physicians, hospitals, or other clinical sites. Results in the year before and after the tool's introduction were compared to 295 983 employees at other companies not offered the tool.

The researchers found that mean outpatient spending among employees offered the tool was $2021 in the year before the tool was introduced and $2233 in the year after, compared to $1985 and $2138, respectively, in the control group. Being offered the tool was associated with a mean $59 increase in outpatient spending, after adjusting for demographic and health characteristics. After adjustments, being offered the price transparency tool was associated with a mean $18 increase in out-of-pocket spending. Ten percent of employees who were offered the tool used it at least once in the first 12 months.

"Among employees at 2 large companies, offering a price transparency tool was not associated with lower health care spending," the authors wrote.

References

  1. Desai S, Hatfield LA, Hicks AL, et al. Association Between Availability of a Price Transparency Tool and Outpatient Spending. JAMA. 2016;315(17):1871-1881; doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.4288
  2. Volpp KG. Price Transparency. Not a Panacea for High Health Care Costs. JAMA. 2016;315(17):1842-1843; doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.4325
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