According to a recently published healthcare economics paper, different insurers pay varied prices for the same services and procedures at the same hospital, indicating that bargaining leverage really does impact healthcare prices.
Authors took actual data from claims for three national insurers. Studies showed that dominate hospitals can dictate how much they are going to get paid for specific services and procedures. For hospitals that hold an monopoly in their area, that number was 12.5% higher than those who had nearby competitors. For more concentrated markets, providers can shift more risk to insurers, which affects the ability to keep prices at a set standard.
“The two main types of contracts use prospectively set prices that pay a fixed dollar amount based on the DRG classification code, or a model that sets payments as a percentage of hospital charges.
Hospitals are likely to prefer the latter because they get paid for every service they provide, and thus bear less risk. This drives prices up and also places less pressure on the hospital to reduce costs.”
In simply terms, it’s about negotiation. The hospital may charge $50,000 for a hip replacement, but the negotiated price may be more like $22,000, Medicare reimbursements would be even less.
“Researchers also found that prices increased by more than 6% when merging hospitals were less than 5 miles apart. They didn’t find significant price impact when the hospitals were separated by at least 25 miles.”
Sources: The Price Ain’t Right? Hospital Prices and Health Spending on the Privately Insured Zack Cooper (Yale University) Stuart V. Craig (University of Pennsylvania) Martin Gaynor (Carnegie Mellon University and NBER) John Van Reenen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CEP, and NBER)
Health Care Cost Institute