Opinion: Employers should welcome health care price transparency

By Donna Marshall

Employers across Colorado, whose health insurance costs have doubled over the past decade and could easily do so again, should become familiar with a new website called Colorado Medical Price Compare. For the first time ever, it provides online, publicly available access to both price and quality information for select services performed at hospitals across the state.
op-ed photo cropped

Now the people who actually use health care can shop for that care based on price and quality. If they do, here’s what they’ll find:

• An expectant family with commercial insurance in Longmont can expect to see a difference of 35 percent on the price that hospitals charge for a typical birth, from the least to the most expensive.
• In Lakewood, a patient comparing prices for a hip replacement within a short driving distance will find a variation of 70 percent between the lowest and highest priced facility, both of which have average quality indicators.
• Across the Front Range, a person in need of a total knee replacement could pay more than twice the price (actually, 132 percent more), depending on which hospital they use.

Currently, the website (www.comedprice.org) provides information on a limited number of surgical and obstetric services. However, an additional nine services and ambulatory surgery center prices will be available by the end of 2014, and it will add over 25 additional services across a variety of facility types in 2015.

In an industry where pricing historically has been as opaque as a painted-over window, Colorado Medical Price Compare represents the essential transparency that’s been long absent and sorely needed if we have any hope of taming health care inflation. The Colorado Business Group on Health – long an advocate for employers seeking to purchase health care based on value — urges employers to take advantage of this unique Colorado resource.

Donna Marshall is the executive director of the Colorado Business Group on Health, a nonprofit coalition of Colorado companies that is focused on changing the way employers buy health care. Reach her at [email protected]

Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the views of the individual authors.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply