Examining A Health Care Price Transparency Tool: Who Uses It, And How They Shop For Care

Health Affairs
Vol. 35, No. 4
April 2016
Sinaiko, A.D. and Rosenthal, M.B.

Calls for transparency in health care prices are increasing, in an effort to encourage and enable patients to make value-based decisions. Yet there is very little evidence of whether and how patients use health care price transparency tools. In a HCFO-funded study, Anna Sinaiko, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues evaluated the experiences of an insured population of nonelderly adults during 2011-12 with Aetna’s Member Payment Estimator, a web-based tool that provides real-time, personalized, episode-level price estimates. The researchers found that the overall use of the tool increased during the study period but remained low. For some procedures the number of people searching for prices of services was high relative to the number of people who received the service. The findings suggest that a campaign to deliver price information to consumers may be important to increase patients’ engagement with price transparency tools.

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