Piggy banks with calculator and stethoscope Not only is there massive price disparity amonghealth care providers for the same procedure, simply choosing byprice doesn't provide consumers with other information they need tomake an informed decision. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Just because a price is disclosed doesn't mean that the cost tothe patient—not just in money, but in quality of service—will be transparent.

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That's the conclusion of a study from public accounting,consulting and technology firm Crowe, Transparent Doesn't Equal Rational: Problems WithTransparency Order, which analyzed Crowe's national hospitaldatabase for individual pricing levels of 100 common outpatientprocedures priced at more than $500 in gross charges, the listprice that hospitals post in their systems. Crowe also reviewed theaverage allowable revenue (what patients pay out of pocket afterinsurance) for each of those procedures.

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What did they find? The average difference between listed grossprices for each procedure was a whopping 297 percent, with theaverage "expected payment" ranging 236 percent.

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Related: Growing gap between what insurers and Medicarespend on hospital stays

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But the problem goes beyond price. While the aim of the Trumpadministration's executive order directing transparency on the cost of healthcare is to allow patients to have a better idea of what they'llend up paying for care, in execution the order is flawed, saysCrowe.

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Among other problems, not only is there massive price disparityamong health care providers for the same procedure, simply choosingby price doesn't provide consumers with other information they needto make an informed decision: the hospital's brand value, qualityof care, consumer ratings, convenience, accessibility, customerexperience and urgency of need.

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In short, Trump's executive order fails to take into account theshopping process used by consumers to find a provider—or whathappens to the consumer who needs urgent care and can't shop aroundat all.

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"Consumers want to understand the confusing disparity amongprices for similar services," says Brian Sanderson, managingprincipal of health care services at Crowe. "An increasein transparency will allow consumers to apply normative, rationalpurchasing criteria when making non-urgent choices on where to getcare. Hospitals that can clearly state the total price to be paidfor a procedure before those services are delivered—and then chargeonly that price once they are delivered—will give patients thebasic tools they need to make well-informed decisions."

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.