Ginsburg Testifies at House Energy and Commerce Health Panel on Transparency
Consumers Factoring in Cost and Quality when Making Health Care Decisions Remains Elusive Goal
April 2, 2009
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WASHINGTON, DCDespite well-intentioned efforts in
recent years by government, employers, health plans and others to foster health
care price and quality transparency, most Americans still choose doctors and
hospitals the old-fashioned waythey rely on recommendations from friends and
families and physicians, economist Paul Ginsburg, Ph.D., president of the Center
for Studying Health System Change (HSC), told Congress today.
"Despite extensive evidence that the quality of U.S. health care is uneven
at best and that Americans pay more for health care than citizens in any other
industrialized nation with worse results, health care price and quality transparency
in the United States has yet to capture a significant consumer following,"
Ginsburg testified at a hearing of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce health
subcommittee on "Making Health Care Work for American Families: Saving
Money, Saving Lives."
In his testimony, Ginsburg made three main points:
- On the cost front, insured Americans face few incentives to consider
price when choosing providers because they typically pay the same out of pocket
if they use an in-network provider. On the quality front, few consumers believe
that quality differs significantly across providers and that these differences
can have serious-even life-or-death-consequences.
- Unlike price transparency, where consumer needs vary greatly depending
on whether they are insured or not, and if they are insured, how their benefits
are structured, theoretically all consumers can benefit from the same information
on the quality of care provided by individual physicians, medical groups, hospitals
and other providers. To that end, the potential audience for credible, understandable
and actionable health care quality information is significant. A critical first
step is to raise consumer awareness of the existence and serious implications
of provider quality gaps.
- Some advocates oversell the potential of greater price and quality transparency,
creating the illusion that other steps need not be taken to address the nations
serious problems with health care affordability and quality. Increased transparency
is, in most cases, a good thing, but increased transparency alone cannot remedy
the underperforming U.S. health care system.
The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research
organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nations
changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better
health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy