Health Tech

Americans’ Healthcare Costs Are Rising With the Pace of Inflation, Report Says

During the first three quarters of 2023, the prices for CMS’ 500 shoppable services increased by 2.0%, according to a new report. This figure is in alignment with the 1.9% U.S. inflation measured by the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index and below the overall U.S. inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index.

While Americans’ healthcare costs are definitely rising, they don’t seem to be rising much faster than the pace of inflation, according to a report published Tuesday by price transparency software startup Turquoise Health.

For its report, Turquoise looked at the prices for CMS’ 500 shoppable services. These are 500 healthcare services that CMS has deemed as the most “shoppable,” meaning they are services that patients can plan ahead for and therefore compare different prices for — some common examples include cancer screenings, joint replacements and blood tests. 

The report tracked the prices set by UnitedHealthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna and Aetna. It measured these prices on a monthly basis at large hospitals with at least 500 beds.

During the first three quarters of 2023, the prices for CMS’ 500 shoppable services increased by 2.0%. This figure is in alignment with the 1.9% U.S. inflation measured by the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index and below the overall U.S. inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index.

There were some significant price variations among specific services, though. For example, the price for chickenpox vaccines rose by about 30%, as did the price for measles, mumps and rubella vaccines. On the other hand,the prices for allergy tests, vaginal delivery of placentas and off-hours medical services actually decreased.

Sometimes, there is a wide range of price variation for a single service within the same metro area, the report pointed out. For instance, payers’ negotiated rates for vaginal delivery with post delivery care ranged from $1,183 to $36,563 in Los Angeles and from $1,442 to $14,565 in New York City.

“This is a perfect example of what happens to costs when we don’t scrutinize them. Healthcare never knew its own prices until two years ago. Now that they do, we have a feeling that in the next twelve months, these ranges will begin to shrink as market forces take over,” the report read.

CMS began enforcing its price transparency rule on the first day of 2021. The law requires hospitals to post their payer-specific negotiated charges and cash prices on their websites so that patients can shop for commonly-sought healthcare services. In July of last year, CMS began requiring payers to post price transparency data as well.

Photo: TAW4, Getty Images