Pediatric Price Transparency: Still Opaque With Opportunities for Improvement

In Hospital Pediatrics, Laura J. Faherty and colleagues, including Evan Fieldston and Rachel Werner, describe online price transparency data for pediatric care and the consumer experience of obtaining an out-of-pocket estimate from children’s hospitals for a common procedure. Price transparency is gaining importance as families’ portion of health care costs rise.

The study consisted of three parts: an audit of 45 children’s hospital Web sites, "secret shopper" calls to the hospitals to request price estimates for a common pediatric procedure (a tonsillectomy-adenoidectomy), and a review of 38 state-based price transparency Web sites. The authors found that less than one in five freestanding children’s hospitals provided prices on their Web sites, the most common being billed charges. One-third of the hospitals provided tools to help families obtain out-of-pocket estimates. Secret shoppers found that nine hospitals provided a dedicated phone number for price estimates, and were able to provide a personalized price estimate with a brief phone call. However, the majority provided an incomplete estimate. Less than half of the state-based price transparency Web sites allowed families to distinguish between pediatric and adult care, and only one provided a personalized price estimation tool. The analysis suggests opportunities exist to improve pediatric price transparency.