The GAO Report on Health Care Price Transparency

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn | Health Populi | November 2, 2011

This morning during my still-dark-at-5:15 am walk, my iPod was motivating me to “get up offa that thing,” as James Brown was motivating me to “release the pressure.” Two minutes into the song, he urges, “Get into the sunshine, church is out.”

This brought to mind a publication I’ve taken time to review from the General Accounting Office (GAO) report to the U.S. Congress, Health Care Price Transparency – Meaningful Price Information Is Difficult for Consumers to Obtain Prior to Receiving Care, published in September 2011.

While employers and health plans want consumers to become more engaged in their health, a key barrier facing all patients has been the lack of accessible, easy-to-understand, comprehensive information on the price of health care services in their communities. Congress asked the GAO to look into the challenge of U.S. consumers’ to obtain price information before receiving health care to enable effective health “shopping.” In the current mode, health consumers can face health price “sticker shock” at the point of purchase, which is generally after care is delivered. GAO believes that price information, coupled with quality measures, can help consumers make informed choices about their care...