Report urges health care price transparency – Spectrum News 1

November 24, 2022
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MADISON, Wis. — Many Wisconsinites know how it feels to open their mailbox only to find a bill for surprise medical costs.
For those who can relate, a recent study in the Badger State has made a few policy recommendations for state lawmakers in an effort to put power in the hands of the patients.
Wisconsin’s hospital prices are the fourth highest in the nation, according to a study from the RAND Corporation.
However, overall spending does not just vary from state to state. The cost of similar procedures within Wisconsin can vary widely too.
Will Flanders, research director for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, has spent a lot of time crunching numbers.
“When you go to get gas, you can see the gas price right there,” Flanders explained. “Why should it be different than getting gas or getting groceries when you go for very important health care services?”
Flanders does not think all prices should be the same, but feels they should at least be searchable.
“With the CT scans, we see a range of from $800 to more than $2,000 across the state, and for the health care consumer, there is no rhyme or reason to it that is easily identifiable,” Flanders said.
The report Flanders helped put together recommends creating one central website state run where health care providers and insurance companies list prices so consumers can know what their out of pocket cost will be before getting a procedure.
“Just like you might pay more at the grocery store for a premium brand, but nonetheless, you know what the price is before you go into it,” Flanders said. “That is the sort of vision we have for health care pricing. That we implement a system where there will still be variation, but it will be variation based on quality.”
According to the report, 28% of workers are on high deductible plans, usually paired with health savings accounts, which means shopping around for services is really important for savings.
Flanders said even though federal regulations for price transparency exist, they are often cumbersome for consumers to figure out.
“We haven’t seen much compliance at the state level,” Flanders said. “We think that state legislation is a way to get that compliance level significantly higher and ensure that the vision that was created at the federal level in the last few years is enforced.”
Flanders believes price transparency could be a big topic in the state legislature during the upcoming biennium beginning in January, with some interest in the issue building among lawmakers.
Regardless of new state mandates, since 2005, the Wisconsin Hospitals Association has operated the PricePoint website, which allows health care consumers to research facility-specific charges for various inpatient services, as well as outpatient surgeries, emergency and urgent care visits and therapies.

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