Skip to main content.

‘It’s the Prices, Stupid’: How sky-high prices are crippling our health care system

The numbers are eye-popping: $25,000 MRIs, the $1,000-a-day hepatitis B drug, $629 for an ER visit that only delivered a Band-Aid. As leading health care economists bluntly put it in a famous research , “It’s the prices stupid.” Experts increasingly point to the high cost of care in America — not necessarily the overuse of care — as the chronic illness of the U.S. system. Health systems in other developed countries pay nowhere near these prices for the same services. And while the Affordable Care Act changed who pays for health care, it has done little to curb rising costs. Recent Republican replacement plans didn’t tackle prices either. For reporters and patients, getting at the issues can be challenging in a world where pricing is often opaque — or deliberately kept secret. This webinar will offer an overview of our health system’s Achilles’ heel, and provide journalists with one ace health reporter’s toolkit for covering the issue in their community — including strategies, data sources and crowdsourcing tips.

WHEN: Dec. 6, from 10-11 a.m. PT / 1-2 p.m. ET

TO REGISTER: Click here.

Our panelists will include:

Sarah Kliff is a senior policy correspondent at and one of the country’s leading health policy journalists. Kliff has spent seven years chronicling Washington’s battle over the Affordable Care Act. She recently launched a new effort at Vox to bring more transparency to medical pricing by gathering and reporting on readers’ emergency room bills. Kliff also hosts Vox's The Impact, a podcast about how policy effects real people, and she co-hosts The Weeds podcast with Ezra Klein and Matt Ygelsias. Prior to joining Vox, Sarah covered health policy for the Washington Post, where she was a founding writer at Wonkblog. She has also covered health policy for Politico and Newsweek magazine.

Niall Brennan is the president and executive director of the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonprofit that gathers health care cost and utilization data from private insurers. Brennan is a nationally recognized expert in health care policy, the use of health care data to enable and accelerate health system change, and data transparency. Prior to joining HCCI, Brennan was chief data officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Brennan has also worked at the Brookings Institution, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, the Congressional Budget Office, the Urban Institute, and Price WaterhouseCoopers. Brennan holds degrees from Georgetown University and University College Dublin, Ireland.

Webinars are free and made possible by the .

Presenters' slides:

Sarah Kliff:

Niall Brennan:

Reading list

“,” by Sarah Kliff,

“,” by Sarah Kliff, Vox, Dec. 4, 2017

“,” by Sarah Kliff,

“,” by Sarah Kliff,

“,” by Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times 

“,” by Uwe E. Reinhardt, The New York Times 

“” By Marshall Allen, ProPublica


DATASET: “” by Kevin Kennedy, John Hargraves, Health Care Cost Institute

“,” Gerard F. Anderson, Uwe E. Reinhardt, Peter S. Hussey, and Varduhi Petrosyan, Health Affairs (2003)

“,” by Joseph L. Dieleman, PhD, et al. JAMA, Nov. 7, 2017

“,” by Amanda Frost, John Hargraves, Health Care Cost Institute


Across the country, children are quietly being poisoned by lead, asbestos and other toxins. We'll share innovative reporting and testing strategies from two top reporters that can deliver urgent, high-impact stories. Sign up here for our next Health Matters webinar!