The relationship between community social risk factors and regional hospital-reported cash, negotiated, and chargemaster prices for 14 common services

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



BMC health services research








Cash prices; Chargemaster prices; Hospital prices; Price transparency; Social risk factors


BACKGROUND: Social risk factors are key drivers of the geographic variation in spending in the United States but little is known how community-level social risk factors are associated with hospital prices. Our objective was to describe the relationship between regional hospital-reported prices and social risk factors by price type (chargemaster, cash, commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid). METHODS: This cross-sectional analysis used newly available hospital-reported prices from acute general hospitals in 2022. The prices were for 14 common services. Prices were winsorized at 98%, wage index-adjusted, standardized by service, and aggregated to hospital service areas (HSAs). For social risk, we used 23 measures across 5 domains of social risk (socioeconomic position; race, ethnicity, and culture; gender; social relationships; and residential and community context). Spearman's correlation was used to estimate associations between median prices and social risk by price type. RESULTS: Prices were reported from 2,386 acute general hospitals in 45% (1,502 of 3,436) HSAs. Correlations between regional prices and other social risk factors varied by price type (range: -0.19 to 0.31). Chargemaster and cash prices were significantly correlated with the most community characteristics (10 of 23, 43%) followed by commercial prices (8, 35%). Medicare and Medicaid prices were only significantly correlated with 1 measure (all p < 0.01). All price types were significantly correlated with the percentage of uninsured (all p < 0.01). Chargemaster, cash, and commercial prices were positively correlated with percentage of Hispanic residents, residents with limited English proficiency, and non-citizens (all p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: While regional correlations between prices and social risk factors were weak across all prices, chargemaster, cash, and commercial prices were more like closely aligned with community-level social risk factors than the two public payers (Medicare and Medicaid). Chargemaster, cash, and commercial hospital prices appeared to be higher in socially disadvantaged communities. Further research is needed to clarify the relationship between prices and community social risk factors.


Health Policy and Management