Pricier Hospitals Can Mean Higher Quality, With Big Caveat

With the cost of hospital-based services rising ever higher — and sometimes varying dramatically between different institutions — the concept of regulating prices has become a perennial political issue. However, a new study suggests that certain markets are much better suited for price regulation than others: namely, those where there is little hospital competition.

In those concentrated markets, higher hospital prices do not appear to lead to lower patient mortality, meaning cost isn’t correlated with quality, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). But in hospitals in less concentrated markets, pricier hospitals are indeed associated with increased health care quality — and as a result, patients are 47% less likely to die than if they attended lower-priced facilities.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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