Health care costs: How Maryland keeps its costs down | The Economist


In 1977, Maryland decided that, rather than leaving prices to the vagaries of a marketplace where insurers and hospitals negotiate behind closed doors, it would delegate the task of setting reimbursement rates for acute-care hospitals to an independent agency, the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. When setting rates, the Commission takes into account differences in labor markets and how much a hospital pays in wages; the amount of charity care the hospital does; and whether it treats a large number of severely ill patients. For example, the Commission sets the price of an overnight stay at St. Joseph Medical Center in suburban Towson at $984, while letting Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore Maryland, charge $1,555…Since the program started, the Wall Street Journal reports that Maryland hospitals have enjoyed a steady profit margin, unlike hospitals in other states that often make more money during boom years and less during a recession…

What is most remarkable is how state regulation of prices has contained costs. When the program began in 1977, the state’s hospital costs were 25% higher than the national average. Today, Maryland’s hospital costs are 2% lower than the national average.

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