Consumer information unlikely to lower health care costs in Massachusetts

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Harvard School of Public Health experts Leonard Marcus and Ashish Jha commented on the new bill passed by Massachusetts lawmakers on July 31, 2012 aimed at controlling health care spending in the Commonwealth, in a Boston Globe story published the following day. Gov. Deval Patrick has said that he will sign the bill, which includes among its cost-control strategies payment system reform of the state-employee and Medicaid health care programs, and greater transparency for consumers about such factors as costs of tests and procedures.

Marcus, lecturer on public health practice and director of the Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at HSPH, noted that the bill brings together methods that have previously been tried. He questioned whether consumers, who may equate higher costs with higher quality, would base decisions such as picking a doctor based on the new information.

The evidence suggests that consumers will not change their behavior said Jha, associate professor of health policy. But the bill’s multipronged approach to tackling cost control is a good one, he said.