Why should I care that one hospital charges 11 times as much as another for an M.R.I.?
There are two main reasons the prices that insurance companies negotiate with hospitals matter for ordinary consumers. One is that a growing number of health plans include deductibles and other types of cost sharing. If you have a health plan with a $1,500 deductible, say, then the difference between a $400 M.R.I. and a $3,000 M.R.I. matters a lot. You might also have a health plan that requires you to pay a percentage of procedure costs: 20 percent of $400 is a lot less than 20 percent of $3,000.
Another reason that prices matter is that the total cost of medical care is what determines medical premiums. If your employer has to pay higher premiums because hospitals in your community charge more than usual, then that increase typically comes out of your wages.
Increasingly, you may care about these costs if you pay taxes. For decades the federal government mostly paid for medical care through Medicare and Medicaid. But now, because of the Affordable Care Act, the government is paying for a portion of the health plans purchased in the new health insurance marketplaces. If medical costs are high for the people buying plans there, the price of insurance will rise, and so will the government’s share of the bill.
– The New York Times