A Bit of Sticker Shock Can Reduce Hospital Costs

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Sarah Kliff points to an interesting little study today. Conservatives have long suggested that one way to control healthcare costs is to give patients some “skin in the game.” That is, make them pay at least a portion of all bills, which gives them an incentive to shop around for lower prices and to undergo only treatment that genuinely seems worth the cost. But how about giving doctors some skin in the game? To test this, a team of researchers ran a trial at Johns Hopkins Hospital in which the price of certain procedures was displayed on a computer screen when doctors ordered them. Other procedures didn’t display a price.

The results were encouraging: Compared to a baseline period, doctors ordered nearly 10 percent fewer tests in the group of tests that displayed prices. They ordered 5 percent more tests in the group where prices remained hidden. They figure the hospital saved about $400,000 during the period of the study.

What I’d really like to see is a time series of this data. Did doctors suffer from a bit of sticker shock and cut down on tests at first, but then slowly ramp back up to their normal rate as the novelty wore off? Or did they cut back and stay at a lower level for the entire six months? I’d also be interested in whether there was any effect on patient outcomes during the course of the study.

In any case, it’s an intriguing study that deserves replication.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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