California has earned a "D" grade for its transparency on pricing for hospital and clinic services, according to a national report card from the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, Modern Healthcare reports.
How States Were Graded
For the report, state laws were graded on:
- How easily the laws allow patients to access health care pricing information;
- Whether laws required disclosure of prices or discounts paid by health insurers; and
- How many health care providers and procedures were included in the pricing data (Evans, Modern Healthcare, 3/18).
Massachusetts and New Hampshire were the only states to earn an "A" in health care pricing transparency, while 29 states received an "F" grade for having practically no transparency requirements.
Seven states -- including California -- received a "D" grade.
According to the report, many U.S. consumers are not aware of the steep pricing variation for health care services (Mitchell, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 3/18).
The report noted that California law requires pricing information to be reported to the state and that such data must be made available to individuals upon request. In addition, health care pricing data is posted on a state website.
However, California does not issue a publicly available report on health care pricing information, according to the report.
In addition, the report found that the state lacks transparency on the amounts actually paid for the health services rendered (Catalyst for Payment Reform report, 3/18).
Comments on the Report
Francois de Brantes -- executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute -- said the results of the report are disappointing "when you consider the weight of health care costs for the average family and what it has become, and while a lot of people are talking about it, nobody seems to be worried about concrete action."
Glenn Melnick -- a health care finance professor at the University of Southern California -- said the report is "pretty lenient" and underscores "how bad things are right now."
He said, "Charges, unless they represent the real prices, are not useful information," adding that the report did not emphasize enough the value of the discounted prices insurers actually paid.
De Brantes said that voluntary efforts have failed to significantly boost pricing transparency and that more laws are necessary (Modern Healthcare, 3/18).