3 levers to cut healthcare costs

Harvard's Meredith Rosenthal shares cost-control strategies at AHIP Institute in Seattle

The healthcare industry is in a "cost crisis," fueling an increased interest in cost control, according to a presentation Thursday at the AHIP Institute in Seattle.

"It's called the Affordable Care Act for a reason," said Meredith Rosenthal, Ph.D., associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. If healthcare doesn't remain or become affordable, expanded coverage through the mandates won't work.

In the post-ACA world, policymakers and industry leaders are looking at cost control in a way that will get waste out of the system while doing as little harm as possible. Below are three levers Rosenthal said could help payers and providers do just that.

1. Price transparency

Rosenthal recommended arming patients with more information about how much care will cost before they make a choice, as well as giving them the ability to compare providers based on out-of-pock cost differences.

While the public domain has made some price information available during the past five years, most of that information is too generic. It's usually at a CPT code level--a level that makes no sense to a patient. Moreover, that information has been an average cost, which would only be useful for patients who want a ballpark idea.

To enhance price transparency, Rosenthal pointed to tailored cost calculators that take into account deductibles and cost-sharing parameters that allow patients to compare providers as they would hotels.