Catalyst for Payment Reform

Dr. Christopher Whaley on Opening the Black Box of Employer Health Care Spending

Dr. Christopher Whaley on Opening the Black Box of Employer Health Care Spending

Julianne McGarry catches up with Christopher Whaley, PhD, Policy Researcher at RAND Corporation and one of the lead authors of the RAND’s Hospital Price Transparency Study. The study, spearheaded by the Employer’s Forum of Indiana, has revealed price variation within and across health care markets. It does this by re-pricing hospital and outpatient services as a percentage of what Medicare would pay. By participating in the study, employers and other purchasers are able to pinpoint opportunities where benefit designs, like reference-based pricing and tiered networks, can help prioritize the use of high-quality, lower priced facilities. Some employers, like those in Indiana’s Fort Wayne market, have already taken action with their re-priced hospital specific data.

The Hospital Price Transparency study has rocked the health policy world since its initial release in 2017, gaining momentum with subsequent releases in 2019 and 2020. During this discussion, Christopher Whaley shares what he has learned through the three iterations of the study. He also cites the best examples of how purchasers, including labor unions, can and have exerted influence on local health care prices. Julianne and Christopher also discuss how the study adds to the evidence around the weak correlation between prices and quality performance. Finally, they address how data sharing agreements are instrumental in improving employer’s ability to gain actionable insights from their health care data.

RAND and the Employers Forum of Indiana are developing the fourth iteration of the Hospital Price Transparency study. To learn more and participate, visit

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