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Relevant Health Care Price Info Hard to Find Online

17 percent of sites have geographically relevant price estimates, with variation by intervention

stethoscope with a dollar sign

MONDAY, Dec. 4, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Overall, 17 percent of websites provide geographically relevant health care price estimates relating to specific interventions, according to a research letter published online Dec. 4 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Allison Kratka, from Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues examined the availability of price information for four nonemergency medical interventions. Searches were conducted for eight U.S. cities, and results were included from 1,726 websites from 64 searches; 1,346 of the websites were not advertisements.

The researchers found that 21.9 percent of the websites were price transparency sites relevant to the intervention in question; 28.4 percent linked to single providers/clinics; 4.7 percent provided quality information without prices; and 27.6 and 17.4 percent, respectively, provided generic information and unrelated information. Across health care interventions the categories of search results differed significantly. Seventeen percent of sites provided geographically relevant price estimates, with significant variation by intervention. There was a difference by location in the proportion of websites providing at least one geographically-relevant price estimate, varying from 27.3 percent in Chicago to 7.1 percent in Baltimore. Most websites did not specify whether the price quoted was the consumer's out-of-pocket cost; there was considerable variation in the prices listed on the sites within interventions.

"Our findings suggest that there is substantial room for improvement in providing consumers with ready access to health care prices online," the authors write. "Policy makers should consider mandating that payers and providers make these prices available to consumers."

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