A new interactive mapping tool and issue brief released by the Health Care Cost Institute with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows wide variation in prices for different categories of medical services within communities and across the country between 2012 and 2014.
The Healthy Marketplace Index: Medical Service Price Category Index uses annual health care claims data from over 40 million Americans under age 65 with employer-sponsored insurance which accounts for more than 25% of the commercially insured population in the US. Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and UnitedHealthcare contribute data to this project. The information is organized by CBSA, Core Based Statistical Areas, which are commonly used geographic regions of economic integration comprised of counties.
Users can look at costs in three categories: inpatient, outpatient, and physician services. Costs rose in all three categories although not at the same rate. “Prices for outpatient services rose fastest, while physician price increases were minimal. The most consistent growth was seen in inpatient prices which increased, on average, five percent each year,” the report notes.
Other highlights are:
- There’s a link between inpatient and outpatient price levels. The report hypothesizes that “some aspects of the drivers underlying inpatient and outpatient prices may be related, such as commonalities in labor supply or population health.” HCCI found only a minimal relationship between physician services and the other two categories.
- Some markets are consistent in pricing across categories. For example, prices in Cincinnati are consistently below average, prices in Nashville are consistently average, and prices are consistently high in Dallas. Other markets, such as Trenton, New Jersey had average inpatient and physician prices, but high outpatient prices compared to the national averages.