AHIP Study Finds Large Cost Variations

A survey by America's Health Insurance Plans released Tuesday online finds large price variations common in medical care, according to the New York Times.

AHIP, which represents 1,300 health insurance companies, cited in its study state-by-state comparison of a list of fees billed by out-of-network physicians in the 30 largest states by population. The Times reports: "The group said it had used Medicare payments for comparison because Medicare was so familiar and payments are, on average, about 80 percent of what private insurers pay. The survey, insurers and some economists say, shows the sort of irrational pricing of medical care that is an integral part of the nation's health care problems and that is largely being ignored, some say, in the current debate."

"'It's the wild, wild West when it comes to prices of anything in the U.S. health care system, whether for a doctor visit or for hospital charges,' said Jonathan Skinner, a health economist at Dartmouth."

AHIP's survey comes as "health insurers are trying to defend themselves against recent efforts by the Obama administration to portray certain industry practices as a major part of the nation's health care problems" (Kolata, 8/11).

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