Business & Tech

Mass. hospitals still not posting prices for consumers

Boston Children’s Hospital was among those that provided information within minutes, while most hospitals took days to respond.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Boston Children’s Hospital was among those that provided information within minutes, while most hospitals took days to respond.

A new survey from the Boston-based Pioneer Institute says many Massachusetts hospitals are still doing a poor job of disclosing their prices to consumers.

Researchers from Pioneer, a free market-oriented think tank, called 21 hospitals to check the price of an MRI of the left knee. Only nine of the hospitals provided an estimate within two business days, as required by state law, Pioneer said.

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The survey results, which come 18 months after Pioneer conducted a similar study, show that it’s still frustrating and time-consuming for consumers to obtain basic information about medical services, Pioneer said.

Some hospitals — Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and MetroWest Medical Center — provided information within minutes, while most hospitals took days to respond.

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A 2012 state law requires hospitals and insurers to make cost information readily available to consumers. While most Massachusetts residents are insured, the prices charged by hospitals are important because many people pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in deductibles before their insurance kicks in.

“Some hospital staff were still unaware of what state law requires, many hospitals failed to meet the statutory deadline for providing estimates, and some misreported their prices by large margins,” the Pioneer report said.

Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, said the complex nature of health care makes it challenging to provide pricing information simply and quickly.

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“The report highlights some specific areas for improvement that should be expedited, including the need for user-friendly information on provider websites that directs consumers how to get price information, and increased training for hospital staff,” she said in a statement. “This is clearly an area that warrants more time and attention, and hospitals are committed to that end.”

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.
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