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November 28, 2022

Trinity College study: Hospitals charge more to insured patients than uninsured for same services

Photo | Bokskapet, Pixabay An MRI machine.

A study conducted by an economist at Hartford-based Trinity College found that hospitals nationwide on average charged more to insured patients than uninsured patients for the same services.

In his detailed study, Trinity Assistant Professor of Economics Gerardo Ruiz Sanchez found that 60% of negotiated rates were higher than the cash rates for the same services. 

The highlights of the study were published this month on the Trinity College website. It was first published in Economics Letters in 2021 – a scholarly peer-reviewed journal of economics and economic research. 

As part of the study, Ruiz Sanchez examined information from 14 hospital services – such as office visits, MRIs and CT scans – that can be scheduled by patients in advance.

The study could not have been done if not for a federal rule that took effect on Jan. 1, 2021, mandating disclosure of such data. That data, the college said, is compiled within the Turquoise Health Dataset, which contains records on about 2,200 hospitals.

The study was focused on the payer-specific negotiated rates charged to Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth, as well as government-related payer plans such as Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Affairs, and state agencies insuring state employees.

In his study, Ruiz Sanchez also found huge differences in cash prices from hospital to hospital. He found that costs for the same procedure could be as much as eight times more expensive.

The study was paid for, in part, by the Trinity College Faculty Research Grant Committee.  

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