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Price Transparency Tool Doesn’t Cut Health Care Spending

Small percentage of eligible employees used the tool when offered

WEDNESDAY, May 4, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Employee use of a price transparency tool does not cut health care spending, according to a study published in the May 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sunita Desai, Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues measured the association between offering a health care price transparency tool and outpatient spending. The tool was offered by two large employers in multiple market areas across the United States (148,655 employees) and provided users information about what they would pay out of pocket for services from different physicians, hospitals, or other clinical sites. Results in the year before and after the tool’s introduction were compared to 295,983 employees at other companies not offered the tool

The researchers found that mean outpatient spending among employees offered the tool was $2,021 in the year before the tool was introduced and $2,233 in the year after, compared to $1,985 and $2,138, respectively, in the control group. Being offered the tool was associated with a mean $59 increase in outpatient spending, after adjusting for demographic and health characteristics. After adjustments, being offered the price transparency tool was associated with a mean $18 increase in out-of-pocket spending. Ten percent of employees who were offered the tool used it at least once in the first 12 months.

“Among employees at two large companies, offering a price transparency tool was not associated with lower health care spending,” the authors write.

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