U.S. Health Care Price Index Shows Cash-Pay Health Services Market Unaffected by Continued Inflation

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Average care prices remained flat MoM in January 2023 - keeping medical care within reach for patients nationwide

The U.S. Health Care Price Index is the first national resource to publicly document the price of cash-pay medical care in America.

In January 2023, the average cash price of a primary care telehealth appointment in the United States, with a doctor or nurse practitioner, was $41.12.

Released today, the latest U.S. Health Care Price Index, the first national resource to publicly document the price of cash-pay medical care in America, shows that prices for all five appointment types tracked in the USHPI (primary care, dermatology, mental health, COVID care and women’s health) held steady, and even slightly lowered, in January, compared to December 2022 prices.

This comes as a welcome sign of relief for consumers still experiencing record-high prices on everyday expenses – and is contradictory to patient trends in the third-party payment model. A recent Gallup poll shows that nearly 40% of Americans delayed care due to cost last year, something that those in the cash-pay market need not do if these trend lines continue in the months ahead.

Nationally, the price for a primary care telehealth visit decreased slightly from $41.40 in December 2022 to $41.12 in January 2023. Similarly, the price of a prescription refill visit lowered from $40.85 to $40.71 over the same period, and COVID screening prices fell from $44.08 to $44.05.

Mental health consults, skin consults and UTI visits experienced minor increases MoM (1.01% increase for mental health consults, 1.6% increase for dermatology needs and 1.04% increase for UTI visits).

The USHPI features pricing data for routine medical services in all 50 states – from primary care and mental health to women’s health and more – with additional prices and specialties to be added over time. In addition to regional and state comparisons, the USHPI tracks price variance and market trends on a monthly basis.

The entire USHPI database of monthly cash prices from May 2022-January 2023 can be found here: http://www.sesamecare.com/compare/ushpi.

Simply put, the cash price is what a doctor or health care provider charges a consumer when a third-party payer - like insurance or a government entity - is not involved in the transaction. This could be because a patient does not have insurance, has a high-deductible health plan or chooses to pay their provider directly, without involving a middleman.

In January, the average cash price of a primary care telehealth appointment in the United States, with a doctor or nurse practitioner, was $41.12. Alaska was the most affordable state in which to book a visit ($19.00), and Arkansas was the most expensive at $56.85. Regionally, Western and Southern states paid below average for primary care appointments, whereas patients in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest saw higher than average prices.

Mental health visits in January averaged $45.35 across the country. Most affordable mental health consults that month were found in West Virginia and Iowa at $35.00 and $37.67, respectively; states paying the highest were Minnesota ($73.75) and Wisconsin ($73.16).

Americans who paid cash for a skin consult appointment paid an average of $45.11 in January. Patients in Colorado and Washington paid the least for an appointment, just $34.00 and $35.40, respectively. Highest prices were found in Oregon ($70.00) and Louisiana ($59.00).

The data comes from Sesame, one of the largest cash-pay health services marketplaces in the United States. It covers the thousands of health care providers resident in the marketplace that charge cash prices for their services. Sesame analyzed thousands of primary care and specialty care appointments made on its platform, leveraging pricing data for patient appointments that occurred during January 2023.

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Sesame is building a radically new healthcare system for uninsured Americans and those with high-deductible plans. The company’s marketplace replaces historically inefficient, expensive healthcare with a direct connection – either virtually or in-person – between patients and physicians. This direct connection enables Sesame to offer doctor visits, labs, imaging and prescription drugs at half the price. Founders include a Harvard PhD in health policy and economics; a former Goldman Sachs analyst; and entertainment executive and healthcare reformer David Goldhill, author of the legendary cover story in The Atlantic, “How American Health Care Killed My Father.” Sesame has raised $75 million so far from investors that include GV, Virgin Group and General Catalyst. The company was ranked #1 by Healthline for overall care in 2021 and 2022. For more information, please visit http://www.sesamecare.com.

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Liz Murphy
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