Study Says Hospital Prices Higher In Areas With Few Options, Hospitals Push Back On Analysis

Sep 30, 2019

Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Indiana health care prices are much higher than in many other states and a new analysis points to even higher prices in some areas. 

The new report finds prices in areas including Fort Wayne and Evansville are higher than in areas where Hoosiers have more options. 

Michael Hicks is the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. He points to mergers and consolidation.

"The fewness of hospitals, the more monopolized they are, the higher the prices and the higher the profitability," says Hicks. 

Indiana nonprofit hospital systems made nearly $1.5 billion in profit in 2017.

Hicks says Hoosiers are already paying more than people in other states.

"The average Hoosier is paying about $819 more than the average American," says Hicks. "At the same time our health outcomes are slipping a bit." 

The analysis recommends policy changes that include breaking up hospital monopolies, price transparency and taxing not for profit systems. 

Following the report, the Indiana Hospital Association pushed back on the analysis.

IHA President Brian Tabor says it doesn’t include all the factors. 

"When a study like this comes along and uses data, that we feel, is in a misleading way, it really distracts us from the important work that we need to do," says Tabor.

Tabor says there are many pieces of the puzzle to Indiana's high health care costs and that other data that should have been accounted for. He wishes Hicks would have reached out.

"With dialogue and more communication, we could actually be having a conversation around a common set of facts and data," says Tabor.

In an email, Hicks stands by his methods and said, “any responsible researcher is going to use all the available data, not just that which the hospital association wants us to use.”

The high cost of health care in Indiana is also the focus of a current interim study committee at the statehouse. 

Contact Jill at jsheridan@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @JillASheridan.