Posted on 11 January 2013
By Mark Miller
It’s no secret that the tab for health care in America is soaring. But did you know that the price you pay for doctors, hospitals, and long-term care can vary dramatically depending on where you live?
The largest regional variations occurred among hospitals, according to health researcher Chapin White of the Center for Studying Health System Change.
“The big-picture trend is that hospitals have been gradually consolidating, merging and forming into big integrated systems,” White says. “They have been buying up more and more physician practices and outpatient facilities. Once they become big integrated systems, private insurers are helpless against them when trying to negotiate prices.
“If a big system has the key hospitals in a market, then all the employers are going to want that system in their plans. They become ‘must-have’ networks–the hospitals, and that gives them the upper hand in setting prices.”
My Morningstar column this month explores why health care costs vary so much around the country.