5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

This week’s reads cover efforts to shed light on hospital prices, the Trump administration's fight to lower prescription drug prices, and more.

Medicare may force hospitals down the path of price transparency

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may soon require hospitals to list their standard prices online in a way that’s easy for computers to parse. The list price is rarely what patients pay, however, so most people will have to ask their health plan what their out-of-pocket expense is likely to be. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the agency is “just beginning on price transparency,” according to PBS News Hour.

Trump administration takes aim at drug prices

In a speech earlier this month, President Donald Trump said the pharmaceutical industry is making a fortune at Americans’ expense. The New York Times provides six takeaways from the Trump administration’s plan to chip away at that fortune and lower the price of drugs in the U.S.

Americans losing confidence in their ability to afford care

Only 62.4 percent of patients said they thought they could afford health care costs if they became seriously ill, a Commonwealth Fund report found — down from 70 percent in 2015. People living below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, young adults, women, people with health problems and people ages 50 to 64 also had significant declines in confidence in their ability to afford health care.

Same hospital, same MRI — huge price difference

Using data from large national health insurers, researchers looked at how much each insurer paid for a basic procedure, like an MRI, within the same hospital. They found the prices vary greatly from insurer to insurer. The findings suggest “that the relative bargaining power of insurers with hospitals can strongly influence price levels.” Read more from Vox.

What happened to U.S. health spending after 1980?

Before the ‘80s, the United States had roughly the same per capita health spending and the same life expectancy of other developed nations. But after 1980, the U.S. started spending more and dropped to the bottom for life expectancy. A health policy expert examines what could have caused this divergence in the New York Times’ Upshot blog.

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