Can Price Transparency Lower Medical Costs?

A diverse group of stakeholders attended the October 18th event.

Amid growing calls for price transparency in health care, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year ordered the release of pricing data for the 100 most common hospital services.

The move put a spotlight on the drastic price differences for health care services in  hospitals across the country as well as within communities, and that consumers are largely unaware of the wide-ranging costs.


For example, the cost of a joint replacement in the U.S. ranges between $5,300 and $223,000. Average inpatient hospital charges for services to treat heart failure range from $21,000 to $46,000 in Denver and from $9,000 to $51,000 in Jackson, Miss.

With a focus on the potential for price transparency to help lower the cost of medical care, UC San Francisco’s Center for Healthcare Value (CHV) and its partners, Consumers Union and Catalyst for Payment Reform, convened “The Future of Health Care Price Transparency in California: A Multi-Stakeholder Summit” on Oct. 18 to examine the issue.

The nearly 100 attendees included representatives from diverse stakeholder groups, including patients, consumers, employers and labor unions that buy health care on behalf of their members, insurers, doctors and hospitals.

“Price transparency is a challenging issue, but it’s worth our attention,” says R. Adams Dudley, MD, MBA, a professor of medicine and health policy at UCSF and organizer of the summit.