Consumers can compare prices on all sorts of purchases, but few comparisons will have the impact of health care cost comparison. Yet, in an April 2015 Kaiser Health tracking poll, fewer than 1 in 10 Americans reported that in the past year they had seen information comparing prices of hospitals or doctors. Health care pricing information can be tough to get and tougher to understand.
Health plans, health care systems, employers, and government agencies can start by supplying the right kind of information in a clear, consumer-oriented way. Moreover, health care systems and providers need efficient processes to answer consumer questions about prices. The time is ripe to move from merely calling for more transparency in pricing to taking practical steps to help consumers capitalize on that transparency and get the most health for their money.