Trauma Center Hospitals Charged Higher Prices For Some Nontrauma Care Than Non–Trauma Center Hospitals, 2012–18


Rising prices are a major cause of increased health care spending and health insurance premiums in the US. Hospital prices, specifically—for both inpatient and outpatient care—are the largest driver of rising health care spending in the commercial insurance market. As a result, policy makers and employers are increasingly interested in understanding the determinants of hospital prices. Hospitals serving as trauma centers are often endowed by regulators with monopoly power over trauma services in their geographic areas, and this monopoly power may spill over to nontrauma services. This study focused on the growing number of designated trauma centers and how trauma center status affects hospital prices for other, nontrauma services. We found that hospitals designated as trauma centers charged higher prices for nontrauma inpatient admissions and nontrauma emergency department visits when compared with hospitals that were not designated as trauma centers, even after controlling for potential confounders.

The full study can be viewed at Health Affairs.

Kessler, D. P., Sweeney, R., & Melnick, G. A. (2024). Trauma center hospitals charged higher prices for some nontrauma care than Non–Trauma Center hospitals, 2012–18. Health Affairs, 43(3), 416–423.

Sign up for Schaeffer Center news