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MA AG Report Finds Limited Impact of Online Cost Estimators on Patient Selection of High-Value Health Care Options

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A new report from the Office of the Attorney General Commonwealth of Massachusetts of its 2019 examination of health care cost trends found that Online Cost Estimators have had a limited impact on patient selection of high-value health care options. Massachusetts payers have developed useful Cost Estimator tools; however, the tools do not capture alternative payments. Overall use of online Cost Estimators is very low, with some payers experiencing a modest increase in use from 2017 to 2018. Women and young adults (ages 26-34) were the most frequent tool users. Patients in High-Deductible Plans were more likely to use the tool. Imaging services and women’s health services, along with behavioral health services (when available), were among the top-searched services. Very few consumers who use Cost Estimators seek to hold their payers to the cost estimates they receive. Payers have tried different strategies to encourage use of the Cost Estimators, although most payers do not track whether members who use the tools are more likely to select higher-value health care options. The report also found that patient expenditures at Lower-Priced Hospitals have decreased over time and vary across provider organizations.

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