5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

In this week’s roundup, learn about pharmaceutical price hikes and price transparency laws that took hold on Jan. 1. Plus, legal experts try a new strategy to fight surprise bills in court.

Drug companies celebrate 2019 by raising prices

Many pharmaceutical companies brought in the new year by raising list prices on their drugs anywhere from 6 to 10 percent. Axios reports that Jan. 1 is a popular time for these price hikes.

New year, new price transparency rules

A new law went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, that requires hospitals to publicly post their list prices for procedures online. This move toward transparency is intended to help people shop around for certain types of procedures, but experts warn that the information won’t be very useful. One doctor told NBC News: “The concern is that there’s a big difference between what the list price is and what the actual transaction price is.”

The case for talking price in the exam room

Who is responsible for talking to patients about health care costs? Deb Gordon, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, argues it’s health care providers. In an opinion piece in USA Today, she writes, “health care providers who become consumer allies — willing to talk about and even tackle the challenges of price transparency and health care affordability — will find they have more satisfied and trusting patients.”

Cost concerns cause young people to put off getting care

Twenty percent of Americans have delayed getting health care because of cost concerns, a recent poll found. But that percentage grows to 33 percent for people under 35. “I think it’s important that young people never feel the need to forgo or delay preventive services,” the chief health information officer of IBM Watson Health told NPR.

Contract law may be a new tool in the fight against surprise bills

According to some legal experts, contract law may protect patients from surprise medical bills. As Kaiser Health News explains, contract law is based on mutual assent, which means both the buyer and seller must agree to a price before services are provided. That concept is rare in health care, where patients rarely know what they’ll be charged before receiving care.

[Related: Protected from surprise medical bills? Depends on where you live]

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