Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Market for health care: no law of one price

The Boston Globe ran a story about healthcare costs at different Boston area hospitals, in which fees are negotiated between insurers and individual hospitals: A healthcare system badly out of balance

""The same service delivered the same way with the same outcome can vary in cost from one provider to the next by as much as 300 percent," said Charles Baker, president of the state's second-largest health insurer, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. "There is no other sector of the economy anywhere in this country in which that kind of price variability with no appreciable difference in service or product quality can sustain itself over time.""

Pricing certainly serves different function in health care than in other parts of the economy, and tertiary care teaching hospitals do more than provide simple patient services (e.g. they also train future docs, about which see my previous post today, on Orthopaedic surgeons). So, as the healthcare system is brought into better balance, some attention will have to be paid to paying for some of the things that now may be paid for with hidden cross-subsidies.

HT Paul Kominers (younger brother of the remarkable if less cool SK)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why do patients or insurance companies choose the higher-priced options? Is the perception if heterogeneity in outcomes so strong that patients are willing to support the higher costs?