mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Prices Prices Prices
Colorado Is the Place to Watch for Health Reform

Here’s one reason to be optimistic about the war on health care price inflation: Colorado and 11 other states are beginning to create laws and institutions aimed at making health care prices more transparent. Kaiser Health News reports on CIVHC, a non-profit trying to make state medical prices available to everyone:

It’s taken years. An “all payer claims database” is step one in Colorado. It’s basically a giant shoebox that aims to collect a copy of every receipt for a health care service in a given state. Since doctors and hospitals generally don’t tell people how much services cost beforehand, the best way to figure it out is to get receipts from the parties that pay the bills: insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare, mostly […]

Laws had to be passed to get insurance companies to send in their claims data—the receipts for what they’re paying—and sorting through all the information is a lot tougher than organizing a pile of paper receipts in a shoebox.

The future of Colorado price transparency hangs on whether CIVHC can continue to fund its efforts. It has apparently used up all the private grants it received for the project.

Even if CIVHC doesn’t find additional funding, this story tells us that state-level health care leaders and politicians are catching on to just how vital price transparency is. It’s encouraging that politicians are coordinating their efforts with the non-profits by passing laws that help the process along.

This is real progress, but it’s still going to be a long, hard slog. All the more reason to get to work.

Features Icon
show comments
  • rheddles

    This is the best place for government to spend money on health care for the general welfare. Anything else it does is income transfer or uneconomic subsidization.

  • TheCynical1

    From limited experience, I get the impression that even doctors don’t always know the relative prices of things not generally charged through their offices, e.g., medications, supplies, lab tests, imaging studies, fees of other doctors/specialists, etc., even though such doctors are often coordinating the overall treatment. Hopefully, price transparency may help well-meaning doctors, as well as consumers, to maximize value.

    • Andrew Allison

      Very good point! But an even more effective tool would be making frivolous malpractice suits very expensive for the plaintiff. It’s an open secret that in bending over backwards to protect themselves from ambulance chasers, Docs are ordering unnecessary tests of all sorts.


    It is great that there is bi-partisan support for increasing price transparency. While Colorado’s efforts are greatly appreciated, we should remember that they build on federal efforts initiated by President Obama. The Obama administration has made publicly available two databases: one, the prices Medicare pays for 100 common procedures; the second, the chargemaster’s price for each hospital. Getting full transparency will require a lot more work at the federal and state level, it is great to have leadership on this issue at the presidential level.

  • sean_parnell

    Eh. Price transparency is generally a plus, but I’ve got serious concerns about it when it’s driven by the state. I blogged on this in late December: The biggest problem is that it’s hard to tell if the prices being revealed are very helpful- knowing the ‘chargemaster’ rates for the local hospital isn’t meaningful if you can call them up and ask for a 75% discount and get it.

  • free_agent

    You write, ” future of Colorado price transparency hangs on whether CIVHC can continue to fund its efforts.”

    Why doesn’t the state fund CIVHC?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    It’s foolish to have the insurance institutions publish the data, and then someone else organizes the data for each Health Care provider, when it’s the Health Care providers that are the ones billing. A law stating that all billing must follow a published price list, or the service can’t be charged for, would force Health Care providers to compete with each other for business. Insurance institutions would then be checking prices and using competing provider’s better prices to get price reductions. It’s not as good as every consumer spending their own money, and hunting for deals, but it is an improvement.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service