5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

T-shirts exposing the cost of medical procedures, what lawmakers are doing about surprise medical bills and more are covered in this week’s roundup of reads on the cost of care.


I paid for a medical procedure and all I got was this t-shirt

Officials in Maryland are trying to call attention to the high prices of certain medical procedures in a novel way: putting them on a t-shirt. Kaiser Health News shares the story of Maryland Health Care Commission’s new venture, WearTheCost.org. There, people can buy black shirts with the average cost of, say, a hysterectomy ($16,138) or a hip replacement ($31,067) emblazoned on the front. “The hope is that, over time, consumers will come to expect that prices are available … and use them regularly in making decisions about where to get care,” someone who worked on the campaign told KHN.

[Related: Putting a Price Tag on Care]

Lower premiums expected for individual insurance plans

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the premiums on typical individual health insurance plans will drop — the first time premiums will fall since Affordable Care Act exchanges opened in 2014. CNN has more details.

Surprise health care bills could become a campaign issue …

Enough Americans are concerned about paying for surprise medical bills that the topic may have an influence on this year’s midterm elections, Kaiser Family Foundation CEO Drew Altman wrote in a piece for Axios. Unexpected bills are the No. 1 health cost issue people are worried about, according to a KFF poll, and Altman calls it “a perfect campaign issue.”

… And lawmakers look to do something about it

Vox.com explains a new bipartisan bill that would ban doctors who are out of network from billing patients directly for care. This would help put an end to one aspect of the practice of surprise billing.

Outpatient spending surges

A study in Health Affairs found total spending per capita on health care services increased 44 percent from 2007 through 2016, based on claims data from people with employer-sponsored health insurance. Spending on outpatient procedures and services grew more quickly than spending on professional services, inpatient hospital stays and prescription drugs. The authors posit this is likely because of the industrywide shift toward outpatient care.


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5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

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Interested in ways we can make the health care system work better?